For the second time in less than a month, the state of Alabama declared a State of Emergency ahead of the potential landfall of a hurricane. Following a conference call with local elected officials Tuesday, Gov. Kay Ivey acknowledged Hurricane Delta, like Hurricane Sally three weeks ago, “is making its way toward the Gulf Coast and could potentially have a significant impact on Alabama.”
“I signed a State of Emergency to begin Alabama’s preparation process and position us to be able to declare a pre-landfall disaster declaration with FEMA,” Ivey said. “As residents along the Gulf Coast know all too well, these storms are unpredictable, and I strongly encourage everyone to take Hurricane Delta seriously. We are keeping a close eye on this approaching storm and we will continue providing all necessary updates.”
Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency Director Zach Hood was in a County Commission meeting Tuesday when he learned Delta had been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. While early predictions called for some weakening before it makes landfall in Louisiana or Mississippi late Thursday or early Friday, Hood encouraged people to make preparations now and be aware of changes to the forecast.
“We all need to take personal responsibility and watch what this storm is doing and prepare now for interruptions in utilities and be in a position where you can get to a safe place in the event you need to,” he said. “We know the storm is in the Gulf, we know we will have some element of impact, so you need to be ready to take further action, that’s the main statement.”
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported Hurricane Delta had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and it was moving west-northwest at approximately 16 miles per hour, much faster than Hurricane Sally. Beyond potential impacts to the coast, the agency warned heavy rain and flash flooding would likely occur throughout the Southeast over the weekend.
The Baldwin County Commission subsequently adopted its own declaration of emergency, paving the way for state and federal assistance for any impacts Delta may have. But just days after beaches reopened to tourists — they were closed from Sept. 16 to Oct. 2 as coastal communities cleaned up and restored utilities — officials appeared reluctant Tuesday morning to issue a mandatory evacuation.
Commission President Billie Jo Underwood said, “evacuation is a personal decision you need to make for yourself,” adding more information and guidance would be forthcoming, but “if you’re in a position you can leave, you need to consider it.”
Commissioner Jeb Ball agreed, suggesting people should seek out information from official sources rather than social media.
“Now is the time today to get prepared,” he said. “Don’t wait until Thursday to get gas, food, or supplies. If this thing does not hit us, we can always say ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry,’ but please take heed. We would not ask you to do this if we didn’t feel like we will have some kind of impact in the area.”
Even without a mandatory evacuation in place, the city of Orange Beach on Tuesday issued a statement “highly encouraging all vacationers to begin leaving today, as soon as possible.”
The city also encouraged residents to begin to prepare.
In neighboring Gulf Shores, officials warned that regardless of where Delta makes landfall, erosion caused by Hurricane Sally will increase the chances for coastal flooding, but additional threats include “storm surge, dangerous surf and rip currents, heavy rain, isolated tornadoes and strong winds.”
“Residents living along the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Plash Island, other low-lying areas, and those residing in mobile homes, campgrounds and RV parks, should begin taking all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their property,” the city recommended.
In Mobile County, Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier suggested similar precautions for people in flood prone areas throughout the island and “especially the West End … to have an evacuation plan that can be implemented well in advance of the storm’s approach.”
“Additional concerns involve the remaining debris piles from Hurricane Sally that can easily be moved by wind and flowing water,” he wrote. “Water service may also be shut off in these areas as conditions warrant. Please take all necessary precautions to keep you and your property safe.”
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