By Holbrook Mohr and Jeff Amy
Gulfport, Miss-The sun rose over the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to flooded and deserted streets and sporadic power outages. Wind whipped coastal communities like Bay St. Louis and Waveland and dumped heavy rain on the already soggy ground.
Thousands of residents in south Mississippi remained without power, officials said.
Power outage totals in Mississippi rose. Coast Electric Power Association said about 14,000 customers were without power early Wednesday (Aug. 29). Singing River Electric Power Association also reported about 1,500 customers with the lights out, mostly in Pascagoula.
Mississippi Power Co. spokesman Jeff Shepard said about 3,600 customers were without power Wednesday morning (Aug. 29). He said the majority of the outages were being reported in Biloxi.
He said Mississippi Power crews began assessing system damage at 6 a.m.
Entergy Mississippi officials said several hundred people were without power in scattered areas of south Mississippi.
Curfews were extended to noon in all three coastal counties — Hancock, Harrison and Jackson. Officials said road conditions were too bad for anyone to be out.
Hancock County Chief Deputy Don Bass said authorities rescued a Bay St. Louis resident from rising water early Wednesday.
Highway 603, the main route to Bay St. Louis and Waveland, was closed at Interstate 10.
“For the most part, we’ve been lucky, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
Darryl Antoine, a Waveland city worker, spent the night cutting trees off of roads and checking the city’s wells. He drove to his cousin’s house early Wednesday to check on it.
Most of that street was flooded, but the house was rebuilt on stilts after Katrina and didn’t appear to have wind damage. Antwoine said his own house was without power, but otherwise fine.
Jerry Beaugez, an assistant with the Bay St. Louis mayor’s office has been working with the fire department, and said things have gone relatively well but it’s too early to celebrate.
The water was still rising, a tin peeled off a business in Waveland and street signs fluttered in the wind. The storm could pound the area for hours and officials considered closing Highway 603, the main connector from Interstate 10 to Bay St. Louis and Waveland.
“There’s not a lot we can do until everything subsides,” he said.
Along low-lying areas along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday hurricane-driven water rose several feet in some spots while thousands waited out the storm in shelters. Utilities were reporting more than 15,000 people without power Wednesday and several hundred more scattered around south Mississippi.
Harrison County emergency management director Rupert Lacy said the storm surge coupled with the high tide could lead to more extensive flooding. Lacy said coastal rivers also were beginning to rise from the rainfall.
Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said the water stood up to 4 feet deep in many low-lying areas of Hancock County and was still rising while the vast storm system lumbered off the mouth of the Mississippi River.
“It’s flooding in quite a bit of places,” Adam said, citing reports from Pearlington, Lakeshore and parts of Waveland and Bay St. Louis.
Police waved drivers off U.S. 90, the main beach road in Gulfport, because of flooding. A billboard had torn loose and water stood foot-deep in some areas, knee-deep elsewhere.
Adam said crews successfully rescued three people who had called for help after a houseboat broke loose in Pearlington, near the Louisiana state line but had no major incidents to report immediately.
Hancock County is unusually vulnerable to storm surge because water driven into the “Mississippi Sound” piles up against the V-shape coast where Louisiana and Mississippi come together. Adam said he wasn’t sure if any structures had been damaged. Most buildings destroyed by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in Hancock County were elevated when rebuilt.
American Red Cross spokesman Jay Huffstatler said nearly 2,000 people had entered a total of 33 shelters in Mississippi.
“We’ve had a great turnout at shelters, people are taking the storm seriously,” Huffstatler said.
In Jackson County, Monica Cooper, a spokeswoman for the emergency management agency, was currently reporting 80 flooded roads and reports were increasing “steadily.”
She said low lying areas of Moss Point, Gautier and St. Martin were among the hardest hit with flooding. She said the flooding was a combination of heavy rainfall and storm surge.
At presstime, Cooper said she could not confirm reports that some homes had flooded.
“But with the extent of the flooding I would not be surprised,” she said.
In Pass Christian, a coastal community that had been wiped out by hurricanes Camille and Katrina, Mayor Chipper McDermott was optimistic Isaac would not deal a heavy blow.
“It’s not too bad, but the whole coast is going to be a mess,” he said early Wednesday.
McDermott stood on the porch of the $6 million municipal complex built after Katrina wiped out the city seven years ago today. Its walls are made of 1-foot-thick concrete to withstand hurricane winds.