Tracking Hurricane Isaac; 2 counties order mandatory evacuation

August 29, 2012 in News, Statewide News, The Buzz, Top Stories

From Media Reports

BAY ST. LOUIS – While shelters are filling up in Hancock County, emergency management officials in Harrison and Jackson counties have ordered a mandatory evacuation.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm’s center – with winds near 80 mph – reached land at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in Plaquemines Parish, about 90 miles southeast of New Orleans.

Isaac’s arrival Tuesday evening came on the eve of the seven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region.

Harrison Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy (left) and Mississippi's governor Phil Bryant (center) urge citizens to evacuate and take precautions as Hurricane Isaac approached the Coast.

“Our first priority is the safety of our citizens. We are concerned about anyone who might be stranded without access to any help,” said Harrison Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy.

“Please realize that if you choose to remain in an area that’s under a mandatory evacuation, our responders may not be able to reach you in case of a medical emergency or unexpected flooding. We realize there are high points in zones 1-3 that may not flood but may be cut off, allowing no access for emergency responders. Please take the safest course for the duration of this storm.”

Harrison County also had a curfew in effect Tuesday night from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Wednesday morning.

WLOX reported that the weather had gotten worse since midnight Tuesday causing a variety of issues for South Mississippi.

Trees are falling across roads, and on power lines. Many roads are covered with water, and therefore, impassable. And tornado warnings are being issued as feeder bands from Hurricane Isaac race across the coast.

Both Harrison and Hancock Counties have extended their curfews. Noone should be on roads in either county until 9 a.m.

As of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the current coordinates of Isaac were 29.4N, 90.5W. And it’s 100 miles south of Biloxi.

According to Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame, as of Tuesday night, more than 100 people were staying in Hancock County’s shelters.

Fillingame said that was a good indication that people in low lying areas of the county are evacuating their homes.

He also said from the federal level down, people across the coast should feel confident a plan is in place. And cities and counties will have access to whatever they need to get through Isaac.

“We’ll be prepared,” said Fillingame.

Hancock County’s emergency operations director Brian Adam said he thinks the number of people in shelters is closer to 150. He just told us the wind is picking up in Hancock County, and water is rising.

Hancock County has two shelters. One is the Kiln shelter on Highway 43. The other shelter is the Dedeaux shelter on Road 350.

On Monday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant held a news conference in Gulfport urging people to evacuate. Some heeded that advice. Many homes were boarded up on the Mississippi coast, and harbors that are usually filled with boats were nearly empty.

Lines formed at gas stations, and some stations had bags covering their pumps to indicate the pumps were empty.

Bryant said 1,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen were on standby to respond, and at least 40 state troopers could be brought in to help the 80 already stationed in the southern counties.

Bryant said Isaac’s approach near the Katrina anniversary “adds to the anxiety.”

“It is reliving one of the most challenging and difficult times in Mississippi’s history. We just hope it’s not to that level,” Bryant said.

On Aug. 23, 2005, Katrina strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the warm Gulf water, but weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana.

At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobe hurricane. The total property damage from Hurricane Katrina was estimated at $81 billion.

Bryant said he talked to President Barack Obama Monday about federal aid that might be available.

As of Tuesday, Mississippi’s attorney general Jim Hood said he was now enforcing the state’s price gouging laws in certain areas as Mississippi prepares for Hurricane Isaac, reversing comments he made Friday.

“The proclamation engaging the price gouging law only applies in counties traversed by Interstate 20 and all counties south of that line,” said Attorney General Hood. “The rule of thumb for merchants inside this area is that they can pass on verifiable increases in their cost of products, but they cannot increase their average profit margin on products after 5:20 p.m. on Monday, August 27, 2012, until the executive order is rescinded. Violations of our price gouging laws could result in one to five years behind bars per count.”

Hood said the law states that “the value received for all goods and services sold within the designated emergency impact area shall not exceed the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods or services in the same market area at or immediately before the declaration of a state of emergency or local emergency. However, the value received may include: any expenses, the cost of the goods and services which are necessarily incurred in procuring such goods and services during a state of emergency or local emergency.”

The counties covered under the price gouging statute during the state of emergency are: Warren, Hinds, Rankin, Scott, Newton, Lauderdale, Claiborne, Copiah, Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Clarke, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Lincoln, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Covington, Jones, Wayne, Wilkinson, Amite, Pike, Walthall, Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.

As of Tuesday, Hood said he had received about 160 calls related to price gouging.

Most of the calls were gas related, although a couple are water related. All total, the Attorney General’s Office has received approximately 200 price gouging calls related to Isaac.

Hood called on the major fuel producers and distributors to rescind their increases from Monday.

“It just isn’t right to slip in last minute increases knowing our folks are facing an emergency situation.” said Attorney General Hood. “After Katrina some hotel owners in North Mississippi decreased their prices for those fleeing the hurricane. I hope that spirit will prevail during Isaac.”

Any merchants with questions about the law and any consumers with complaints can contact the AG’s Consumer hotline at 1-800-281-4418. Consumers may go to agjimhood.com for more information.