Ports in a Storm

The traffic in the northbound lane of Interstate 20/59 was not as busy as emergency officials feared it might be. As the threat of a major hurricane slamming into the coast died down, residents there began canceling hotel reservations in Meridian early Wednesday morning.

"We were booked yesterday, but since then, we've had several cancellations," said Debbie Joiner of Howard Johnson's in Meridian.

It was much the same story at the local Red Cross shelter. A shelter was set up at Trinity Presbyterian Church, with cots, food, and medical supplies for up to 200 people, but by mid-afternoon, it didn't have a single evacuee.

"We've been really slow so far, and that's good news," said Red Cross volunteer Dianne Smith. "Hopefully we won't have to deal with that."

Local rescue volunteers say despite having little to do, their work was not in vain. They say it will be good practice for the next time an emergency takes place. Meanwhile, the Amtrak Crescent is riding out the storm here in Meridian. It ended its usual run at 4:00 p.m. in Meridian instead of continuing on to New Orleans. The Meridian Transit Authority transported about 30 passengers and five crewmembers to available hotels and motels for at least an overnight stay.

Even though it hasn't made landfall yet, tropical storm Isidore is causing trouble on the Gulf Coast. Heavy rains, as much as six inches, have drenched parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Trees are down, power outages are reported and there are evacuations.

The Lauderdale Emergency Management agency is watching the developing storm closely from its office in Meridian. It's being monitored around the clock and emergency personnel are on standby. It is this kind of potential emergency, as well as others, that LEMA workers are trained to handle.

Officials have also notified Newscenter 11 of some school closings. The West Jasper School District will not be open on Thursday Sept. 26, because of projected weather conditions. Heidelberg Academy is also closed Thursday. Both schools will reopen on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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