Forrest County Emergency Management officials are still working off a worse-case scenario as they await the arrival of Hurricane Nate, which is predicted to make landfall as a weak Category 2 hurricane tonight along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Predictions as of the 11 a.m. briefing in Hattiesburg show landfall somewhere between Gulfport and Pascagoula.
Forrest County and the Pine Belt remain under a Tropical Storm Warning, which means the area should expect to see winds in excess of 39 mph beginning about 10 p.m. tonight and lasting about 10 hours through the early hours of Sunday morning. There is the possibility of wind gusts to 60 mph.
“By 7 a.m. Sunday we expect the winds to be out of here,” said Glen Moore, Forrest County Emergency Management director. “The further south the higher the winds.
“Nate is a very one-sided storm with much of the strong winds on the east side of the storm. If this track holds, we will be on the western side of the storm, which will be good news for the Hattiesburg area.” Moore said being on the west side of the storm also means less chance for brief spin-up tornadoes in the Pine Belt.
“Forrest County is a large, long county, so what you see in Brooklyn is going to be very different from what you see in Hattiesburg,” Moore said concerning winds. “The further south the higher the winds.”
He also noted that as the storm moves further inland the wind field will shrink.
Because of the speed of the storm and the short period of time which it will be in the area, the risk of flash flooding has decreased dramatically. He said poor drainage areas that always flood could be a possibility for some flooding, but the area should be good.
Moore expects between one to three inches of rain at the maximum.
He predicts the forward speed of the storm will pick up to around 30 mph as it makes landfall.
“With the speed increase, once it makes landfall it’s going to be out of here, which is a good thing,” Moore said.
The Forrest County Shelter 361, located at 946 Sullivan Drive behind the Forrest County Multipurpose Center, will open as of 2 p.m. today and will be staffed by the Red Cross. Standing room capacity for that shelter is a little more than 300, according to Moore.
William Carey, which has closed residential halls on its Hattiesburg campus, has a little more than 100 international students, who have nowhere to go. Those students are expected to move into shelters in Forrest and Jones counties, depending on the number of others seeking shelter.
Moore said his office had received quite a few calls inquiring about the shelters, so he expected a good number.
Those who live inside the city limits of Hattiesburg and need to go to a shelter, but have no transportation, are asked to call the Action Line at 601-545-4500. “They will arrange to get you transportation to a shelter,” Moore said.
Lamar County is tentatively scheduled to open its shelter, located at 105 Central Industrial Row in Purvis, at 6 p.m. tonight. EOC Director James Smith said anyone needing shelter is welcome to come. They recommend you bring any personal comfort items you may need. According to Smith, the opening time may change if the severe weather threat either increases or decreases. Any updates will be made to their Facebook page.
There is the possibility of power outages, which may result from dead trees or large limbs falling on power lines, but Moore expects power outages to be very sporadic.
Having talked with Mississippi Power prior to the meeting, he said the company has hundreds of employees on standby in Hattiesburg ready to go out and more than 1000 employees headed to the Coast.
“If we do have power outages, I don’t see prolonged outages,” Moore said.
Updates are being made continuously to the Facebook pages of the both the Forrest and Lamar County Emergency Management agencies.