Holloway suggests low-lying areas look to evacuate now

Mayor A.J. Holloway is suggesting that residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas of Biloxi consider evacuating to higher ground now instead of waiting until Saturday, when mandatory evacuations in Alabama and Louisiana will likely slow traffic on northbound routes.

A Hurricane Watch, meaning that hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours, was issued for Harrison County this afternoon by the National Weather Service. The service said the 4 p.m. (Central time) position of Dennis was 22.6 N, 81.1 W, or 95 miles east-southeast of Havana, with movement toward the northwest at 17 mph. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, the weather service said.

“I believe it’s too early at this point for weather forecasters to make credible predictions about where this storm will make landfall and when we’ll start seeing winds and tides start to build,” Holloway said Friday afternoon after being briefed on storm preparations by city department heads and city emergency management coordinator Linda Atterberry. (To see an evacuation route and other info, click here.)

Holloway also announced a mandatory evacuation of marine vessels now in the city’s harbors near downtown Biloxi and at Point Cadet. Port Division staffers had been contacting boat owners throughout the day today suggesting they move their craft to safer anchorage north of the Bay of Biloxi.

“At this point, I’m saying that this is now a mandatory evacuation of these vessels,” Holloway said, “and they need to get them moved before the winds reach 34 mph, which is when the areas bridges will be locked down for the duration of the storm.”

Municipal court cancels Monday session

City Legal Department Director Ronnie Cochran announced that Monday’s session of municipal court has been canceled. Cases that had been scheduled to be heard Monday will be heard on Aug. 1 at the original times.

The Biloxi Visitors Center will be closed Saturday and Sunday.

City department heads reported to Holloway Friday that additional shifts of workers – particularly in the Biloxi Police and Fire departments – have been ordered to stand-by status and to be available to report to work on short notice. The city has set up an information line for city employees to monitor for updated information.

MML conference moved to August

One of Biloxi’s largest and longest-running conventions became a victim of Hurricane Dennis this afternoon when the Mississippi Municipal League announced that its convention scheduled for next week has been postponed until Aug. 28-31.

The annual summertime gathering has traditionally attracted from 4,000 to 6,000 municipal leaders from across the state and a host of exhibitors promoting a wide array of services for local governments.

MML leaders began notifying city leaders across the state about the postponement on Friday.

“Please cancel any hotel reservations that you have ASAP,” MML advised its members. “We regret any inconvenience that this decision may have caused you but I know that you join with the league in remembering all those residents effected by this Hurricane in your prayers.

“Tentative plans are to hold the conference Aug. 28-31, 2005 on the Gulf Coast. More information will be provided to you as it becomes available.”

Medical volunteers needed for shelters

Emergency Management officials are asking qualified medical personnel to volunteer to staff shelters in Harrison and Hancock counties. While no shelters have been opened at this time, officials want to have potential volunteer contact information on hand.

“Qualified medical personnel” would include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nurse assistants, emergency medical technicians and other appropriately trained people.

To volunteer, call American Medical Response at 228-897-1196.