Water-logged weekend had rescues, drenched streets

The Biloxi Fire Department’s swift-water rescue team, which rescued two Woolmarket families trapped by rising waters over the weekend, is prepared today to make more rescues as rivers crest over the next few days, and contractors in east Biloxi are using vacuum trucks to suck up remaining water and heavy equipment to help dry out dirt streets that have been drenched by anywhere from 6 to 8 inches of rain.

“It’s been a very wet and long weekend for workers and residents,” said John Cowart of Oscar Renda Contracting, the firm that is the midst of rebuilding drainage, water and sewer systems in a 55-mile area of east Biloxi. “This is by far the largest rain event that we’ve seen since this project began in August 2014, and it’s going to take a few days of sunshine to dry this dirt out.

“Right now, we’re anxious to get back on track,” Cowart added.  “We’re going to be following through on our next round of paving. In the next three to four weeks, around the first week in February, in fact, you’re going to see paving on Keller north of Division, Redding, Roy and Laurel Court.  And we’re going to continue those rounds of paving in subsequent weeks as more and more is done. But right now, we’re drying out from the street flooding.”

And the street flooding caused by three days of rain was not limited to east Biloxi. Late Saturday night, when an inch of rain fell between 1 and 2 in the morning, the Biloxi Fire Department brought out its big wheels, a huge military transport vehicle, to rescue two Woolmarket families who called 911 in fear of being stranded.

“Once we received the call, we deployed our USAR or Urban Search and Rescue Team,”  Fire Chief Joe Boney said.  “The team used a specialized vehicle to reach and transfer the residents to safety.”

The USAR Team, made up of 12 certificated Biloxi firefighters, completed nearly a year of specialized training to be able to locate, extricate and medically  stabilize victims trapped in natural disasters.  The extensive training includes certification in overland, trench collapse, water and swift water rescue.

The team uses a military medium cargo truck, known as an “M35” or “deuce and a half.” Because of its all terrain-nature the vehicle has become a popular rescue vehicle for many municipal police and fire departments across the country.

“The Team can handle what we have on a day-to-day emergency,” Boney said.  “They are also part of a task force responsible for the six southern Mississippi counties, which can be deployed to help anywhere in the state and U.S. if requested by FEMA.” In fact, the Biloxi USAR team has assisted with natural disasters along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in other areas of the state and most recently in tornado-stricken areas of Louisville, Ky.

Said Boney: “We have a well-trained team that can assist our citizens when needed.  Just call 911.”
Visit the Biloxi Fire Department webpage


Rising rivers to crest over next few days

Harrison County Emergency Manager Rupert Lacy, in a report this afternoon, says residents along area rivers can expect to see rivers crests anywhere from two to five feet above flood stages as late as Thursday.

At 1:30 this afternoon, the Tchoutacabouffa was already at 11.44 feet, well above its 8-foot flood stage, and was not expected to crest until Wednesday at 13 feet. The Biloxi River, meantime, was expected to crest at 15.4 feet on Thursday morning and the Wolf was expected to crest at 11 feet later Thursday.
Tchoutacabouffa River real-time readings 
Biloxi River near Lyman real-time readings
Biloxi River near Wortham real-time readings


An airing of the infrastructure issues in east Biloxi

The three days of rain that fell in and around Biloxi — 5.8 inches according to Keesler’s weather office and 8.16 inches according to the National Weather Service — caused the predicted flooding of streets and low-lying areas in the east Biloxi infrastructure construction zone. The flooding also prompted a spirited discussion of the infrastructure issues this morning on JZ 94.5’s “A New Day with Rip Daniels.” To listen to the segment of the program, featuring Daniels and the city’s Public Affairs manager, click here.


Residential construction didn’t take a holiday

The holidays are traditionally a slow time of year in the Community Development Department, but the city issued 60 permits with a construction valuation of $990,800 over the past two weeks. In fact, a total of 92 single-family homes are now under construction in Biloxi, reports the city’s Community Development Department. In the past week, the department issued a total of 34 permits of one type or another, with a total valuation of nearly $450,000.  

Meantime, calls for service in the Police Department remained steady last week with a reported 2,163 calls for service, generating 148 arrests.  The Biloxi Fire Department’s call volume also remained average, with a 131 calls for service, including 97 for medical and one kitchen fire.
See the complete weekly report


News and notes

City Council meeting: The Biloxi City Council meets this evening at 6 at City Hall. To see the meeting agenda and supporting documents, click here.

Development meeting: The city’s Development Review Committee, a multi-departmental group that reviews proposed new construction in Biloxi, will be reviewing plans for the Saltgrass Steakhouse when it meets Wednesday morning that the Community Development Department on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. To see the agenda for the meeting, click here.

Facebook and more:  The city relies on Facebook and Twitter to communicate breaking news and advisories, and to augment the city website and Bmail. Are you getting city Facebook posts in a timely manner? Take a few minutes to find out. Click here.