City readies for Dennis

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 11, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-As Dennis approached the City of Demopolis took aggressive action to design a plan of preparation for the storm. Demopolis Police Chief Jeff Manuel said department heads would gather Friday afternoon to discuss a plan of action.

The plan will likely have the Street Department on in a support role with the police and fire departments in an active role. Manuel asked the citizen’s of Demopolis to help with their preparations by removing items that could pose a danger in high winds from their lawns and roadsides.

“As things progress we would like to encourage people to take things off the streets and from outside their homes and secure them,” Manuel said. “Things like lawn furniture can be like missiles if the winds are strong enough.”

Dennis will probably mean a busy weekend for Demopolis’s finest. Manuel said the department would probably be forced to go to longer shifts to protect and assist the people of Demopolis.

“We are looking at having the police department go to 12 hour shifts this weekend,” Manuel said. “We will probably go to that Sunday morning at 6 a.m. depending on how things progress. It could happen as early as Saturday with officers going on a system of 12 hours on and 12 hours off.”

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said the main concern was to keep people off the streets.

“We want people to know they need to stay home during and after the storm,” Williamson said. “We need the roads clear for emergency personnel.”

The path of the storm Friday was a straight line toward Demopolis from the Alabama Gulf Coast. If the current momentum of the storm were to remain steady the likelihood of power outages throughout the weekend would be strong. Manuel said if this is so, citizens could stay up to date by listening to local radio stations.

“We encourage people to listen to the local radio,” Manuel said. “That will give them a better idea of what they need to do and what is going on.”

In an effort to keep the streets clear Manuel said a curfew may go into effect.

“We will probably be putting a curfew into place depending on how extensive the damage is,” Manuel said. “That will also dictate how long the curfew is in place. We don’t want a lot of people out there rubbernecking. We had that during Hurricane Ivan and there were people driving around with trees and power lines down. That can create a very dangerous situation.”

Once the storm has passed through a cleanup effort will be the next step. Manuel said those who wish to volunteer for the cleanup effort could assemble Monday at city hall. They will put together a plan to clear roads and offer other services from there.

Williamson said City Hall would be open Monday for emergency use.

“City Hall will be open,” Williamsons said. “It will be open for emergency purposes only.”

Shelters will be available through the Marengo County EMA. As for now, there are no shelters available in Demopolis. Manuel said they would simply help those coming to town move further North.

Drawing on the latest available data, AccuWeather.com meteorologists see Hurricane Dennis making landfall between Pensacola and Apalachicola, Fla. on Sunday morning. The adverse effects of the storm will be felt long before Dennis reaches the Gulf Coast, however.

Dennis, now a major Category 3 hurricane with 105 mph winds, is currently 125 miles southwest of Guantanamo, Cuba. As it crosses Cuba, it will likely diminish in intensity, particularly if it travels over the country is mountainous interior. Whether Dennis then re-intensifies as it enters the Gulf of Mexico will ultimately determine where Dennis makes landfall in the United States and how strong the storm will be at that point.

Conditions in the Gulf this weekend will likely favor Dennis regaining strength after weakening over Cuba. Two major factors needed for the development and continued strength of hurricanes are warm water and weakening upper level winds, both of which are present in the storm ‘s projected path.

Dennis could cause severe property damage over a wide area as it approaches landfall and then strikes the U.S. coast. Sustained destructive winds will be a factor as far as 150 miles from the storm ‘s center, with the worst effects experienced on Dennis’s eastern side. Heavy rainfall, coastal erosion, and severe flooding are all likely to occur, beginning tonight over the Florida Keys and southwest Florida. The brunt of the storm is expected to reach the west coast of Florida today and the panhandle on Saturday night. As the storm travels inland, Dennis should bring wind-swept rain and damaging winds to parts of southern Alabama and Georgia.

While current weather patterns point to Dennis hitting the Florida panhandle, the possibility remains that the storm could make land between eastern Louisiana and peninsular Florida. Free, continually updated information on this potential storm is available at www.AccuWeather.com and via the popular, free Forecastfox downloadable browser extension available at www.GetFirefox.com. AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center forecasts and severe weather bulletins are also available for mobile phones nationwide. Wireless subscribers should visit wireless.accuweather.com for more details.