Holloway repeats warning, orders shelters opened

Mayor A.J. Holloway this morning reiterated his recommendation that residents evacuate low-lying areas of the city, particularly since forecasts are suggesting Hurricane Dennis may veer closer to Biloxi than originally predicted.

The mayor ordered that two storm shelters – at Gorenflo Elementary School on Lameuse Street and at North Bay Elementary School off Popp’s Ferry Road – be opened at noon to house residents seeking refuge. (For a list of other shelters in Harrison County and shelter necessities, click here.)

“People need to appreciate the severity of this storm,” Holloway said. “It’s going to be a significant threat to our city, and it’s not to be underestimated. I’m issuing a recommended evacuation for residents of low-lying areas and those living in susceptible structures, such as mobile homes, and, depending on how things go, this recommended evacuation for those areas could become a mandatory evacuation at some point.”

Winds and rain are expected to begin building in several hours, Holloway said, so residents should realize that driving conditions will deteriorate.

“There will be a point in time when we will enact a curfew in Biloxi,” the mayor said, “so residents need to take care of any necessary business now, before things get bad. I can’t give a definite hour on when a curfew would go into effect at this point, but, rest assured, we are going to reach that point.”

Between briefings from Linda Atterberry, the city’s emergency management coordinator, Holloway heard status reports from city department heads.

Increased police presence

Police Chief Bruce Dunagan said motorists would see an increased police presence throughout the weekend, as officers are now working on 12-hour shifts and leaves and vacations have been canceled.

“We’ll have increased patrols on major thoroughfares and in neighborhoods,” Dunagan said. “As the winds and rain become a factor, I suspect that officers will be discouraging sightseeing motorists. People should avoid driving when conditions deteriorate, and, should a curfew be imposed, motorists will be questioned by officers.”

Busy bridge at Popp’s Ferry

Public Works Director Richard Sullivan reported that about 100 vessels had passed through the Popp’s Ferry Bridge between 8 a.m. and noon today, and bridge tenders were raising the span for groups of vessels to reduce interruptions

Boatowners, who were ordered Friday to move their vessels from the city’s public marinas and harbors, are seeking safe anchorage upriver.

“We haven’t seen the huge crush of marine traffic as we’ve seen in past evacuations,” said John Wilson of the city’s Public Works Department. “We’ve basically been trying to bunch them up and get as many through as we can in a safe manner. We don’t expect to have to implement a structured schedule since it’s moving like it is.”

The Cedar Lake Bridge, which is in the midst of a months-long refurbishment project, opened briefly at 9 this morning for marine traffic, but there are no plans to re-open the bridge to marine traffic again, owing to the repair work and increasing winds this weekend. Local bridges are “locked down” and are used exclusively for vehicular traffic once winds reach 34 mph.

See the latest advisories, radar loops

The Storm and Flood Preparedness section of the city web site offers a host of information on Hurricane Dennis, along with evacuation routes and other info. To visit the section, click here.