Boat owners face Saturday morning deadline

The city this morning began notifying owners of marine craft in the city’s public harbors and marinas to move their vessels no later than Saturday morning as the latest reports suggest that Biloxi and the surrounding area could begin to experience tropical storm conditions  as early as Saturday afternoon.

In fact, the city is now under a hurricane warning, which means hurricane conditions are expected. As a result, the Biloxi Fire Department this afternoon will begin sounding hurricane sirens every six hours to remind residents of the pending threat.

Port Division Manager Larry Sablich made the announcement about harbor evacuations this morning during a City Hall gathering of city department heads and key staff to discuss storm preparations. 

Meanwhile, among the 8.2-mile stretch of Biloxi’s beachfront, hundreds of RV owners and Cruisin’ the Coast fans watched as an intermittent parade of classic cars motored along U.S. 90 under clear skies and breezy conditions. In fact, the latest tracking information from the National Weather Service indicates a slight eastward shift in the storm’s projected path.

“It’s just another beautiful day today,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, who Thursday advised visitors to continue to monitor weather reports and consider avoiding the deteriorating weather forecast this weekend. “We want people to continue to enjoy themselves, but to also give themselves enough time to stay ahead of the weather.”

Traffic ties ups? The exodus of the nearly 300 vessels from Biloxi’s four harbors and marinas – pleasure craft, charter boats and shrimp trawlers – as well as evacuating vessels from nearby cities was expected to cause onland traffic delays at Popp’s Ferry Bridge. Maritime law requires bridge tenders to open spans for marine traffic, which has right of way. 

In the past, we’ve had instances where we’ve had to raise the spans for as much as 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the number of vessels, said Biloxi Public Works Director Billy Ray Allen. “Our goal is do everything we can to keep both marine and vehicular traffic moving while satisfying maritime law.”

Boat owners typically move their craft to safer anchorage up the Bay of Biloxi, which means the bridges at Popp’s Ferry in west Biloxi and Lorraine Road in east Gulfport may be opening more frequently for marine traffic. The I-110 highrise also has to open for larger craft. Bridges will not open to marine traffic when winds reach 35 mph.

In other developments this morning, city crews are clearing storm drains, securing lose materials and removing barricades in the center median of U.S. 90 and pole banners.

Longer shifts: Police officers are expected to transition to 12-hour shifts, from their current 10-hour shifts, once the storm enters the Gulf of Mexico and all departments have topped off their fuel tanks for vehicles and generators.  City construction sites have been ordered to secure loose materials.

Warning sirens: The Fire Department will begin sounding hurricane sirens possibly as early as 1 p.m. since a hurricane warning has been issued for Biloxi. “We’ll also do it six hours later as a reminder,” Fire Chief Joe Boney said.

East Biloxi: Also, Oscar Renda Contracting, the firm over seeing the infrastructure work in east Biloxi, has mobilized water pumps to detail with expected rainfall this weekend.  The company also has worked to clear storm drains and is expected to removed barricades from throughout the 55-mile work zone in Biloxi. 

Biloxi schools:  The Biloxi Public Schools is currently observing its fall break, today through Monday, with classes resuming on Tuesday unless otherwise noted on its website.  To view the Biloxi Public Schools online, click here.

Transportation:  The Coast Transit Authority is prepared to assist local residents with evacuation transportation if mandatory notices are given for low-lying areas.  To register for the service, click here.

City employees: The city’s storm info line at 228-435-6300, which is updated regularly with a recorded message, also contains information for city employee work schedules and other advisories. 

Sand bags: Self-serve sand bags are available at Biloxi Fire Station 8, 8479 Woolmarket Road instead of Station 9 on Oaklawn Road. Self-serve sand bags are still available at Cavalier Park, 2059 Lawrence St.; Popp’s Ferry Recreational Soccer Fields, 2150 Popp’s Ferry Road; and Todd Migues Park, 425 Parker St. Each site has shovels available for use.

Have a plan: “Our city department directors and key personnel are doing just what we want the public to be doing right now,” said Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich: “Have a plan. Do the things you need to be doing now before the weekend gets here.”