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Isaac now a hurricane

Isaac has reached hurricane status and city and county officials expect lots of rain and some wind damage.

Dry air hindered its earlier formation into a hurricane. However, by Tuesday afternoon the storm gathered enough strength to reach category 1 status.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown shared information about how the storm is expected to affect Pearl River County. Gusts are expected to reach 40 to 60 miles per hour and between 10 to 16 inches of rain is predicted to fall. The county also is under a tornado watch. Major effects of the storm are expected to hit the area between 6 to 8 p.m., with the storm continuing to deliver rain and wind until mid Thursday.

The Pearl River County Utility Authority office has closed, and is expected to reopen Thursday, weather permitting, Executive Director John McClain said. Sewer and water outages in the Utility Authority coverage areas can still be reported by calling 601-799-5259. Utility Authority personnel are staged at the Neil Road treatment plant to address problems as they arise.

Schools in the Pearl River County, Poplarville and Picayune school districts will be closed Wednesday. Pearl River Community College will remain closed Wednesday as well.

The Picayune Item business office will be closed Wednesday.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said the special needs shelter in Hinds County did not open, now the closest special needs shelter will be in Perkinston.

Highland Community Hospital will not be a shelter, but will still be open for any medical needs, with its the emergency room, surgery and obstetrics. Currently, the hospital has about 30 patients and there are no plans to move them elsewhere.

Picayune Police Chief Bryan Dawsey said his officers are ready to patrol the streets as the storm approaches. He advises residents to stay off the streets and take shelter as the storm worsens. Officers also will take shelter during the worst of the storm. Emergency calls will be addressed once the worst of the storm has passed.

“If we can get to you safely, we will,” Dawsey said.

Isaac has been behaving very erratically, stumping meteorologists as to the actual path it will take and how powerful it will be when it makes landfall. Brown said no matter what path it takes, this area will feel some effects.

“Regardless, we’re going to get wind, rain, tornadoes and lines down,” Brown predicted.

Coast Electric communications specialist April Lollar said crews will continue to work power outages until winds reach 35 mph. After that the crews will take cover until the winds die back down.

Residents should expect a lot of rainfall and possibly some tornadoes to come from this storm, he said. Flooding may also occur.

According to a press release from the Mississippi Department of Employment, the WIN center in Picayune will be closed until further notice.

Coast Electric and Mississippi Power have taken efforts to prepare to respond and repair the expected power outages by staging crews and supplies in key locations. The electric utilities’ business offices are expected to be closed as the storm passes.

Residents who have special needs should report to a hospital for evaluation, according to a release from the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency. If residents need to go to a shelter, they should bring supplies with them, including water, non-perishable food, baby supplies, change of clothes, toiletries, medications, important papers and flash lights. Candles and lanterns will not be allowed in the shelters. Some form of entertainment, such as cards or board games, will help pass the time.

Shelters include Manna Ministries in Picayune’s Industrial Park at 120 Street A Suite A and the Poplarville First Baptist Church in Poplarville. Brown said as of 3 p.m. Tuesday about 40 people had taken shelter in Picayune. Once that shelter is at 80 percent capacity South Side Elementary will open.

Once the first two shelters fill up, then four other shelters on standby will open. They are, in the order they will open as they reach capacity, Picayune First Baptist Church, Poplarville Middle School, South Side Elementary in Picayune and the Baptist Association in McNeill, according to a release from the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency.

City and county employees who are essential are expected to report to work. All public county and city offices will be closed Wednesday.