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Motorists urged to use caution as storm approaches

REGION-Unpredictability is one of the distinguishing characteristics of tropical depressions and the current system seems to be no exception. As of Friday afternoon predictions for the landfall of what could potentially be known as Tropical Storm Arlene were slightly different from earlier projections.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Stefkovich, of Birmingham said landfall appeared as if it would be a little later than once expected.

“Right now our projection is still for the storm to make landfall around noontime Saturday,” Stefkovich said. “We are still expecting to see lot of rain which could be anywhere from three to eight inches.”

Friday afternoon the storm was moving Northwest at 13 mph. Stefkovich said the slow movement left a lot of potential for a change in the storms path. Stefkovich said there was a wide range as far as where the storm could hit land. The impact the storm would have on Demopolis would depend on where the storm headed once it hit land.

“With tropical storms it can be difficult to tell,” Stefkovich said. “The storm is set to make landfall anywhere from just East of New Orleans to Apalachicola. Of course, what that means for Demopolis is if the storm moved further to the East the rains might be lighter. If Demopolis falls to the west of the storm rains are likely to be heavier.”

Friday a wave of light rains made their way through most of Alabama. Stefkovich said the rains represented the first waves of the storm.

“What we are seeing now are the bands of the storm,” Stefkovich said. “Unfortunately, that is what we are likely to see for most of the weekend. The rains will come through from time to time until the storm hits.”

As potentially dangerous conditions approach Alabama state troopers urge motorists to drive with extreme caution as weekend weather forecasts indicate heavy rain and possible flooding. Public Safety Director Col. W.M. Coppage said troopers were on standby to assist with emergency response should flooding develop in the state’s southern section.

Coppage asked that drivers keep a close watch on developing weather conditions and encouraged motorists to monitor local television and radio broadcasts for information on weather and roadway conditions. He asked that they contact trooper posts only to report traffic crashes or other emergencies so phone lines would be open for any emergency calls. He added that Public Safety’s Web site, www.dps.state.al.us, includes a link to the ALDOT’s list of emergency road closures.

Troopers offer the following suggestions to help insure the safety of motorists during inclement weather:

_ Avoid travel during heavy downpours unless absolutely necessary.

_ Turn on lights and windshield wipers.

_ Never attempt to drive across a water-covered roadway. Water depth and movement can be deceptive.

_ Drive at a lower speed appropriate for road and weather conditions.

Coppage reminded drivers that wet, slippery roadways and decreased visibility resulting from heavy rainfall make for extremely hazardous driving. He stressed the importance of reducing driving speeds during inclement weather, along with keeping a safe distance between vehicles.