Little damage done as Lili passes

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 4, 2002

James Netherland with MDR Powerline Construction of Columbia moves a downed power line as Vicksburg Street Department workers clear an oak tree blocking the west entrance of John Allen Street Thursday. At left, John Payne with Asplundh Tree Expert Company of Atlanta walks through a maze of trucks stationed in the IGA parking lot Thursday. Payne said they had 32 trucks waiting to be dispatched and 300 in the field. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[10/04/02]People hunkered down as Tropical Storm Lili passed to the west, causing little damage here.

Public schools, which shut down at midmorning Thursday, were open today and so were casinos, opening their doors at noon after experiencing their first-ever order to close by the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

The E-911 dispatch center for the county reported about double the normal number of calls, according to Allen Maxwell, its director. About 345 calls came in from the time rain from the storm started falling late Thursday morning until about 8 a.m. today, he said. The rain measured 2.61 inches.

Normal 24-hour call counts from citizens to E-911 run about 150 to 200, assistant director Cindy Alkhatir said. By contrast, during 12 hours while Tropical Storm Isidore passed through last week, the center received about 270 calls.

“Traffic seemed to be at a minimum,” Sheriff Martin Pace said, adding that people seemed to heed the alerts of potentially worse weather from a storm that turned out to have a path that was difficult to predict.

Most of the trees that fell did so between about 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., Pace said, adding that some deputies did carry chainsaws, but most of the removal work was done by the county road department under the direction of Rhea Fuller.

“They had full crews out last night working,” Pace said. “They did a tremendous job.”

Pace said deputies re-sponded to 35 calls of trees that were blocking all or part of roads, some of which also contributed to the many downed power lines around the county due to the weather.

Four wrecks with injuries were reported in the county, two in the city and two elsewhere in the county.

Police Chief Tommy Moffett said he did not know of any problems to blame on the storm.

“There were some trees blown down here and there, and some traffic problems,” Moffett said, adding that the area of John Allen Street and Halls Ferry Road may have experienced one of the longest-lasting traffic problems created by the storm.

“I checked with my supervisors about 11 p.m. and again first thing this morning, and still nothing had happened,” Moffett said.

About six Entergy circuits went out after high winds that blew in between about 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., but all customers were expected to again have power by midnight tonight, said Cheryl Comans, the company’s spokesman here.

“At the peak of the outage we had about 4,000 customers out,” she said, adding that power to some of those customers was restored overnight.

“This morning we had about 50 percent of the trouble scouted,” she said. “We should finish after lunch. We had about 3,400 customers still out when I got here this morning.”

About 180 extra workers were brought in by the company to help restore power to Warren County residents, Comans said, bringing the total number of people working on problems to about 200.

“We hope to bring in a couple of more crews after lunch,” Comans said, adding that as damage assessment continued downed trees were being found to have created most of the problems, many of them off of Entergy’s right-of-way.

“There was a lot of damage scattered throughout the city and the county,” she said.

Emergency management director L.W. “Bump” Callaway commended all who worked on the problems.

“The community pulls together in an emergency like this and really makes things a whole lot better,” he said.

Elswhere in Mississippi, officials were keeping a careful eye on southern waterways today, including the Pearl River in central Mississippi, the Bogue Chitto River and coastal streams.

“We’re watching the rivers to see the flood levels and amount of rain,” said Amy Carruth, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

MEMA officials today begin the task of damage assessment for the second time in a week. Carruth said teams would be sent to areas affected by the storm, many hit by Tropical Storm Isidore the week before.

Marty Pope with the National Weather Service said Lili brought less rain than Isidore, with high rainfall amounts less than four inches in most parts of the state, although some isolated areas may have had more. Rivers were also in good shape, reducing the likelihood of additional flooding, Pope said.

Bobby Strahan, Civil Defense director in Pearl River County, said two tornadoes touched down yesterday near Mississippi 53 where Hancock and Pearl River counties meet. A total of six separate tornados were sighted, he said. The weather service said other tornado touchdowns were reported in two counties to the west of Jackson. There were no reports of damage.

Coastal areas that saw flooding during Tropical Storm Isidore were again inundated. Harrison County Civil Defense director Linda Rouse said several hundred homes were flooded around Biloxi’s Back Bay. And in Hancock County, where some 3,000 homes flooded last week, hundreds of homes got a new dose of floodwater.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission had ordered the 12 Gulf Coast casinos to close Wednesday night but they reopened Thursday afternoon. Casinos were closed at Natchez, Vicksburg and Greenville on the Mississippi River on Thursday but reopened at noon.

The Mississippi State Fair in Jackson, which started on Wednesday, closed early Thursday because of the weather but was expected to open this morning as scheduled.