The rain is coming courtesy of Barry, which is expected to be a Category 1 hurricane when it comes ashore at Louisiana on Saturday morning. Emergency Management officials are warning Pine Belt residents ahead of time to be weather safe and smart.
Glen Moore, executive director of the Forrest County Emergency Management District, said officials from government agencies in the county and the cities of Hattiesburg and Petal were briefed Friday afternoon at the Emergency Operations Center.
“We wanted to get together on what to expect to make sure everyone’s emergency action plan is in place,” he said. “Everybody is just waiting for the storm to get here and everybody has a plan of action.”
Moore said the area can expect a slight threat of tornadoes.
“As the system makes landfall and makes its northern track, we could see some brief spin-up tornadoes, so everyone should be aware of that,” he said.
However, Moore emphasized flooding will be the most prevalent danger.
“The main thing is that when we have had the last three major flooding events, people don’t obey the barricades,” he said. “When they try to go around the signs, the vehicle is swept off into the creek and we have to put a swift-water team to rescue them. All of that could have been avoided if they had obeyed the signs, turned around, and not put themselves and the first responders at risk.”
“If you come upon a barricade in the road, it’s there for a reason. Please turn around and don’t put others at risk.”
Sandbags have also been popular in Lamar County, where James Smith is the executive director of the Emergency Management District.
“We have a lot of residents who have come by my office to pick up sandbags,” he said. “We have probably had about 500 sandbags picked up by homeowners in the two days we have given them out.”
Smith said he plans to have the Central Industrial Road office in Purvis staffed Saturday for anyone who wants sandbags.
“We’ll continue to give them out as people need them,” he said. “Right now, we’re just monitoring the storm. We should have a better idea of what to expect early Saturday.”
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker also emphasized the tornado threat and flash flooding, where a warning continues through Sunday night.
“Remember we have seen four federally-declared natural disasters in the last seven years, so we know the opportunity for severe weather is always with us,” he said. “We know it is coming, we know we can expect eight inches of rain, so they need to take that seriously. If they have water in their yards from a previous rain event, they need to come get some sandbags and protect their property.”
Moore said three sites will have sandbags, and the EOC will have tarps to stop leaking roofs.
The sandbags will be available at:
* Emergency Operations Center, 408 Hwy. 11 (filled sandbags, sand and bags).
* Hattiesburg Fire Station No. 1, 810 N. Main St. (filled sandbags, sand and bags).
* Petal Fire Station No. 1, 102 Fairchild Drive (sand and bags).
Moore said the county’s emergency shelter will open in the event of a tornado watch.
Paul Sheffield, Executive Director, Jones County Emergency Management District, said Laurel and the surrounding area is getting ready for the showers. However, he hopes that he doesn’t see any significant weather events.
“We’re asking people to pull out their plans for hurricanes and tornadoes, dust them off and go through them with your family,” he said. “We are not anticipating any major problems with Barry, but it would be better to go through the emergency kit when it’s not going to be a big emergency to make sure everyone is aware of what to do.”
Dangerous flooding can be expected south of Jones County, Sheffield said.
“Hattiesburg is expecting to see more rain than we’ll have,” he said. “We’re expecting 4-8 inches of rain, while farther south it is 7-12 inches. Flash flooding could be severe.”
The rain will be welcome, Sheffield said, but not in dangerous amounts.
“We can sure use the rain, but the rest of that storm can stay away,” Sheffield said.
Hattiesburg’s Barker said being prepared and following safety rules will be the best things residents can do.
“If everyone will just be smart about this, we’ll ride it out and be OK on the other side,” he said.