Hurricane Gustav is expected to make landfall on the Louisiana coast in the early afternoon Monday, Labor Day. Copiah County supervisors, city officials, and emergency personnel met Sunday afternoon to discuss preparations for the storm as well as a 3:30 p.m. conference call with the National Weather Service. At that time Gustav was moving northwest at 18 mph with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.
Gustav has maintained itself Sunday with some reorganization seen in the satellite images, despite weakening overnight Saturday. The storm is expected to strengthen slightly before Monday’s landfall. Maximum sustained winds are anticipated at 125 mph at landfall.
Hurricane winds are projected 60 miles from the center of the storm with tropical storm winds 190 miles from center. Late Sunday night southeast Mississippi will begin feeling the effects of the storm, which will spread northwest.
A tropical storm wind warning will be in effect beginning at 5 a.m. Monday for northeast Louisiana and central/south Mississippi. Tropical storm winds are expected, at least in gusts, as far as Jackson and Vicksburg. The strongest gusts will likely be in the rain bands around Natchez and Brookhaven, with gusts up to 75 mph.
The potential for tornadoes will be a danger for Copiah County Monday and Tuesday. Rainfall may be from 3 to 10 inches over the next three days. Gustav may stall after reaching land, according to weather service officials, which will prolong the potential for tornadoes and flooding.
Copiah County may experience tropical storm winds of 40 to 50 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. The county lies right on the edge of the hurricane wind watch, so stronger gusts are possible, according to EMA director Randle Drane.
Copiah County’s shelters at Antioch, Greater Damascus, Camp Wesley Pines, First Baptist Church, Harmony, Highland and Sylvarena were full as of Sunday afternoon. Other shelters were expected to open Sunday but would probably be full by evening, reported EMA director Randle Drane.
These shelters have reached the capacity they can handle with their current level of staff, Drane advised. Other organizations wishing to help evacuees are advised to volunteer their services or donations to one of the existing shelters rather than open their own shelter without adequate manpower to run it. Food donations may be needed. Call Drane’s office for more information.
Horses from the evacuated areas are being housed at the Copiah County Fairgrounds in Gallman, reported Kevin Thompson, fairgrounds manager. A local citizen has offered pasture space for the overflow at the fairgrounds, so call the EMA at 601-894-1658 for more information if space is needed for an evacuated horse.
Copiah County School Superintendent Rickey Clopton advised that district officials will look at the wind situation Monday afternoon to determine whether schools will be open on Tuesday.
Copiah’s municipalities reported heavy traffic as evacuees continued to move north late Sunday, but no problems.
Drane advised emergency personnel to wait until the storm is over before beginning debris cleanup and to keep safety as top priority in all storm responses. Sight seers are urged to stay home and keep out of the way of emergency responders.
Citizens are urged to stay safe, watch out for falling trees, and stay tuned to weather radio for updates on storm warnings.