City prepares for Zeta, the latest threat

The Biloxi City Council declared a State of Emergency today, empowering Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich to take any necessary action to prepare Biloxi for the expected high winds and storm surge from Tropical Storm Zeta.

The state of emergency declared in Biloxi this afternoon grants the mayor broad authority in making emergency purchases and using city personnel and equipment as needed and where needed to minimize the threat to the health and safety of city residents.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve seen a lot this year, with COVID and so many threats from so many storms,” Gilich declared, “but this storm shows that we haven’t seen it all yet. Our message to the people of Biloxi is to not take this lightly. Use the time between now and late Wednesday to do all the things you need to do to prepare your family and your property.”

Biloxi and nearby areas were under hurricane and storm surge warnings, meaning conditions would deteriorate over the next 36 hours. The National Weather Service says Zeta, now more than 450 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, could make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of 80 mph and a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet. Biloxi is at the center of the current forecast cone.

Throughout the day, city departments were going through their standard storm-prep. Here are status reports from key city department directors:

In the Biloxi Fire Department, Chief Joe Boney reports that the city’s 10 fire stations are being secured and rescue equipment is being checked and readied for service. Fire chiefs are identifying and assigning command staff, swift water teams and extra personnel who will be deployed tomorrow through the duration of the event. The department is also helping making sure all harbors are clear before securing the city’s fire boat, the Serena G, later today.

Biloxi Police today were staging highwater rescue vehicles north and south of the Bay, and the city’s police marine vessels have been prepared and moved to safer locations. Personnel are going to 12-hour shifts, and barricades are being staged near roads that traditionally flood in heavy rains. Said Assistant Chief Mike Wills: “When you approach a barricaded street or standing water, please turn around. Do not drive through standing water on roadways.”

In the city’s Engineering Department, Director Christy LeBatard says staff are visiting each of the city’s publicly funded construction sites to make sure contractors have all trash and construction debris picked up, and all materials and equipment is secured.

In Public Works, Director Billy Ray Allen had workers clearing any debris from storm drains and catch basins throughout the city.

The Community Development department is also inspecting today, says Director Jerry Creel: “Pre-storm, our inspectors will drive through their assigned areas to look for concerns, such as things that could become airborne or floating debris. We also will check neighborhoods, commercial properties and construction sites.”

Post-storm, Creel said, inspectors will make windshield assessments of storm damage for reports that help determine if the area qualified for a federal disaster declaration.

Workers in the city’s Parks & Recreation Department are picking up or securing any loose items at public parks and playgrounds. At Point Cadet Plaza, portable restrooms are being removed because of the expected storm surge. After the storm passes, says Parks & Recreation Director Sherry Bell, those same crews will be picking up debris at city parks, while administrators perform damage assessments of facilities.
See the latest on Zeta
How to prepare for a storm