Miss. Prepares for Storm

With Tropical Storm Isidore expected to hit the Gulf Coast sometime late Thursday or early Friday, local emergency responders are preparing for evacuees.

"At this time we have two shelters definitely on standby," said John Watts, disaster chairman for the Key Chapter of the American Red Cross. "Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church and Poplar Springs Drive Methodist Church. Those churches can handle about 500 evacuees."

"We have 500 blankets donated from Sunbeam," said Red Cross executive director, Cheri Barry. "We've got our disaster trailer loaded and ready to go to the different shelters if we need to."

Meanwhile, with the storm steadily approaching officials with the local Emergency Management Agency are also on standby.

"This thing is so far away that probably tomorrow night, Thursday night, we'll have our office staffed 24 hours a day," said Clarence Butler, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency.

One part of the state's emergency response plan has, temporarily at least, been put on hold. It's called Contra Flow, a plan that would require all traffic on Interstate 59 from the Louisiana line to Ellisville to travel northbound.

With evacuees traveling to the north, local hotels are getting filled on reservations. Although they still have some openings, officials expect that to soon change.

"I have instructed my managers to take care of all the people," said Abdul Lala, owner of several hotels in Meridian. "If you don't have a room, just make the lobby or breakfast area for them to stay in because we want to help them as much as we can."