Preparing for Frances

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Though the 145 mph winds of Hurricane Frances are unlikely to sway Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma’s emergency management personnel are preparing to help.

“We’re set up to handle evacuations from the Gulf Coast,” Selma’s Emergency Management Agency Director Brett Howard said. “If we’re dealing with Frances, it’s a Category Four. Usually the governor will issue a mandatory evacuation of the Gulf Coast.

They will open up I-65 both ways going north. One of the exits off I-65 is to Selma. If it is going to be a Gulf Coast hit, we will coordinate with the Red Cross opening shelters. We’ll have one ready to go.”

Email newsletter signup

Though Frances is currently in the Atlantic and bearing down on Florida, Howard said it is possible for the storm to move into the gulf and possibly even reach Selma.

“We’re 150 miles from the coast, it just depends on how strong it is.

We could very easily see 70-to-80 mph winds, if it’s moving really fast,” Howard said. “Our main threat from a hurricane is tornadoes that spawn off,

not the hurricane itself, but the tornadoes from it and the rain.”

Though it is possible, it is unlikely that Selma will play any role in Hurricane Frances other than lending a helping hand.

“Shelters are already planned out and in place,” Howard said. “The planning started years ago.

We plan and work this stuff every year.”

Dallas County already has 10-12 potential shelters in churches and schools.

Howard says that the hotels fill up first.

“The shelters are set and in place, the Red Cross will be here in my office if and when the time comes,” he said.

If the coast or eastern Alabama is affected but Selma is left alone, Howard said he could be called to help in other cities. However, the areas that could need the most help are in Florida.

Still recovering from two hurricanes last month, another could prove disastrous.

“Florida’s still calling for EMA Directors,’ Howard said. ” Now, they’ve got another one coming.

If it comes across there it’s going to be really bad.”

Howard, who keeps track of the storms with equipment in his office, says there is a chance for the storm to reach the Gulf Coast.

“If it doesn’t start making a northerly turn, it will go across Miami and into the gulf.

If it goes into the gulf, it could come up the Alabama River,” Howard said. “We have hurricane tracking software and we can do modeling here.

I hope we know by this time tomorrow where it will go base on what it does tonight.”