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Mississippi officials watching storm over Florida

Gov. Haley Barbour said in a recorded telephone message that a storm brewing over the Gulf of Mexico could affect Mississippi in the next few days.

“Don’t panic, but be prepared,” Barbour said.

Automated calls with the governor’s message started going out Wednesday evening, primarily in parts of south Mississippi that were slammed by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005.

Lea Stokes, chief of staff for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said the automated calling system is part of a post-Katrina test project the Federal Emergency Management Agency has started in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

Barbour said in the brief recorded message that people living in FEMA trailers should learn the location of the nearest storm shelter in case an evacuation is ordered.

Stokes said MEMA held a conference call Wednesday with officials from Mississippi’s three coastal counties to discuss the storm. More conference calls are planned Thursday.

Meteorologists said the center of the low-pressure system appeared to be over west-central Florida. Computer models showed possible tracks across the Gulf Coast.

The National Weather Service in its hazardous weather outlook said the low-pressure area could affect southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi Friday night or Saturday and that it would have the potential to become a subtropical or tropical storm. Higher-than-normal tides and coastal flooding were possible Friday into Saturday.

However, “the path, strength and timing of this storm system are still uncertain,” the report said.