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Dja vu: Meridian braces for Hurricane Lili

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 2, 2002
One week after Tropical Storm Isidore struck Louisiana, residents there are making reservations once again at local motels in anticipation of a strike by Hurricane Lili.
Bill Simcox, manager of the Best Western Motel on South Frontage Road, said he has talked to some of the same people who made reservations last week. Many were canceled when Isidore failed to strengthen.
Lili, a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, is now in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane warning was in effect from east of High Island, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast, hit last week by Isidore, were under a tropical storm warning. National Weather Service forecasters predict Lili will make landfall on the central Louisiana Gulf Coast.
Nevertheless, Meridian emergency officials are making plans for an influx of evacuees in case the hurricane changes course for New Orleans or the Mississippi Coast.
Cheri Barry, executive director of the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross, said shelter kits and blankets are still in place if needed.
Barry said she has a Spanish-speaking interpreter on standby as well as many local volunteers who were not used last week.
Clarence Butler, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, was busy Tuesday making sure signs were still in place throughout the area to direct possible evacuees to local shelters.
At the National Weather Service office in Meridian, John Baxter, warning coordination officer, kept a watchful eye on the hurricane.
If the storm continues as expected, Baxter said, it could hit Louisiana with 115 mph to 120 mph winds, putting Meridian on the eastern edge of the storm's rain path.
About 8 inches of rain fell in Meridian between Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon last week more than double the average rainfall here for the month of September.
Isidore also left about 20,000 Mississippi Power customers, including 1,300 Meridian residents, without electricity for varying lengths of time between Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon.