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Developing Tropical System Worries Emergency and Government Officials on Coast
Mandatory Evacuations May be Required in Some Areas

by Keith Burton - GCN   9/21/07   Updated 6:20 p.m.

A storm system that moved across Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico was upgraded to a sub-tropical depression this morning by the National Hurricane Center. The upgrade included Tropical Storm warnings being issued for the Northern Gulf Coast from Apalachicola, Florida to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Emergency management officials have begun preliminary preparations in light of the Tropical Storm Warnings being issued.

A Tropical Storm Warning means tropical storm conditions can be expected within 24 hours in the warning area. This warning comes with relatively little time for Coast area residents to prepare or evacuate. Weather forecasters know that even over a short period of time, a tropical system can develop rapidly. Forecast computer models suggest the system could move toward the Alabama and Mississippi Coasts, but its exact path has not been determined.

Emergency management officials along the Coast have issued either mandatory  evacuation notices or recommended evacuations of people in low lying areas from Jackson County west to Hancock County, FEMA trailers, mobile homes and Katrina-style cottages in Jackson County

In Jackson County, the American Red Cross has opened three shelters: St. Martin Community Center, Latimer Community Center and the Jackson County Civic Center at the Fairgrounds. A pet shelter will be also be opened at the Vancleave Vo-Tech School. A special needs shelter will be open at the East Central Community Center.

Other shelter locations in Harrison and Hancock counties will also be opened. But there is a concern that any real evacuation will have to be done swiftly as the storm system is currently forecast to move into our area by tomorrow.

Governor Haley Barbour called Coast residents Thursday afternoon using the state's new automated calling system. His message was for residents to monitor the situation and be prepared to act. Decisions on shelters and evacuations will come as the storm develops. There is a lot of uncertainty among officials at this time and evacuations may be unwarranted.

There is also the concern that the storm could require closing the shoreline casinos. While almost all of them are onshore in buildings far for secure than during Katrina, this storm could set a precedent regarding when casinos are to close. Any decision on closing the casinos will come from the Mississippi Gaming Commission on advice given by the state's Emergency Management office. At this point in time, it does not appear that the need to close the casinos will be necessary.

At its worse, the current system is not anticipated to be anything more than a strong Tropical Storm or low Category 1 hurricane, but even at that level, strong winds, very heavy rainfall and high tides will be felt. The national weather service has already issued a flood advisory, mostly due to southeasterly winds that push Gulf waters into the bays and bayous along the Coast and with the tropical system approaching, low lying areas are likely to see some flooding.

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