Storm roundup: Biloxi ‘very fortunate,’ Holloway says in wake of Ivan

Mayor A.J. Holloway said Biloxians should consider themselves fortunate that Hurricane Ivan’s punch was more of a jab to the city, and the billion-dollar casino resorts along the waterfront could be back in business as early as 6 this evening.

Holloway, who this morning lifted a curfew that had been imposed Wednesday afternoon, said damage in Biloxi appeared to be mostly limited to downed tree limbs, small debris and isolated damage to rooftops. No serious injuries were reported.

Hurricane Ivan made landfall Thursday at 2:07 a.m. near Gulf Shores, Ala. with winds as high 130 mph. WLOX meteorologist Tommy Richards said the station’s studio at the western boundary of Biloxi recorded winds as high as 58 mph, and he said tides along the peninsula were 4 to 6 feet above normal.

“This could have easily been a far different and a devastating story,” Holloway said. “In the end, the track was favorable to Biloxi residents. I was worried that we were going to face high winds and rough seas along the beachfront, which would have caused significant damage.

“We should all be grateful today, but we should also have the people in Alabama and Florida in our prayers. I’m also hoping that our residents realize that this was a close call, and that we must always continue to take preparation seriously. The path a hurricane might take is far from a certainty.”

City crews today were assessing damage to public and private property, and working to clear streets. Motorists are warned that traffic signals may be inoperative or downed at many intersections. Crews are working to repair those on U.S. 90 this morning.

Holloway said municipal offices will remain closed today, but all city employees were expected to return to work at their usual time Friday.

Casinos could open as early as 6 p.m.

City engineers and building officials were checking mooring systems at Biloxi nine casinos to make sure they suffered no major damage, and the Mississippi Gaming Commission said Biloxi casino resorts, which employ several thousand, might open as early as 6 o’clock this evening, Casinos had been ordered closed Tuesday at noon as Hurricane Ivan churned in the gulf.

The casino resorts in Biloxi employ between about 17,000 people, and generate about $350,000 a day in gaming tax revenue for the state and city, as well as for school districts in Biloxi and Harrison County.

Said Holloway: “There’s no doubt that this industry is the engine driving our economy, and it also plays a significant role in the state economy. It’s great that we’ll be back up and running, maybe as early as 6 tonight.”

Bridges still not open to marine traffic

Hundreds of marine vessels are expected to soon begin retuning from rivers to waterfront marinas and harbors, but bridge tenders report that bridge spans cannot be raised until the current wind gusts of 30 mph dissipate. Also, harbormasters are making damage assessments before re-opening marinas and harbors.

“We’re going to be re-installing the crossing bars that were removed before the storm on the Popp’s Ferry bridge,” said Public Works Director Richard Sullivan, “and while we’re waiting for the winds to calm down, we’re also going to work on coordinating our draw openings at Popp’s Ferry with those at the I-110 and U.S. 90 bridges. Boat owners need to be patient for the time being.”

Caution urged on returning to homes and businesses

Harrison County Civil Defense Director Linda Rouse urges citizens to exercise caution on returning to their homes and businesses.

“There are certain hazards that come with cleaning up and making repairs in the aftermath of a storm,” she said. “We made it through Hurricane Ivan’s strike on Harrison County without loss of life or serious injury, and as we enter the follow-up to the storm we want to maintain that record.”

Rouse advised citizens to:

–Look for visible structural damage before entering structures.

–Avoid loose or dangling electrical lines and broken sewer, water or gas lines. Immediately notify authorities if you discover utility problems, and do not enter a structure if the odor of gas is present.

–Be sure all electrical appliances and outlets are dry and free of water before using them Mississippi Power helpline: 1-800-487-3275);

–Use caution while operating chainsaws and other power tools.

–Avoid consuming food that was stored in refrigerators where power was interrupted for even a few hours. Thawed food should not be re-frozen.

–Beware of snakes, vermin or insects that may have found refuge indoors.

Red Cross assistance number

The American Red Cross for Harrison County advises citizens who wish to report damage from Hurricane Ivan or request help, to call the agency’s national toll-free hotline, 1-866-GET-INFO (1-866-438-4636).