Hurricane expected to do major damage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 2004

With a Category 3, possibly Category 4, hurricane hitting Mobile with sustained winds of 130 mph, Alabama is going to look a lot like Florida.

By the time Ivan hits Selma, sometime Thursday afernoon, the storm will be a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained winds expected at 65 mph and gusts of more than 100 mph.

“Wherever you’re reading this newspaper from,” Dallas County EMA Director Brett Howard said, “Stay there. If we’ve got 60 mph winds you can’t send ambulances out.”

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Howard said all residents should expect to stay put until Friday at the earliest.

According to Howard, tropical storm level winds were expected to hit Selma last night at midnight. Ivan will be heralded, Howard said, by tornados throughout the night.

“They’ve got tornados all over Mobile,” he said. “As it moves to shore we can look for the same.”

Howard will spend all day today in the Dallas County EMA office, where he’ll coordinate rescue crews, repair crews, Red Cross and Salvation Army officials and anything else Ivan throws at Dallas County.

He doesn’t expect to get home anytime soon.

“The recovery could take months,” he said.

Hurricane Ivan has been described as a record-setting storm, and officials say it will probably do as much or more damage than Hurricane Frederick, the largest storm in recent history.

While the Selma area will be hard hit by Ivan, Mobile is expected to be devastated. The National Weather Service expects the hurricane to produce a 14 feet storm surge, which will breach the barrier islands and do massive damage to Alabama’s coastline.

As for Dallas County, Howard and other emergency officials have done as much as possible to prepare, but they could still use help.

Howard wants to minimize emergency calls as much as possible throughout the night to prevent taking up time with the lines.

“Don’t call 911 because your power’s out,” he said. “Call 911 if it’s a life or death emergency.”

After the hurricane passes, shelter will be available for anyone made homeless by the storm. The Red Cross already has several emergency shelters available. All area schools will be closed until Monday. In the event of water or food shortages after the storm, the Red Cross and Salvation Army are both ready to distribute items as needed.

For information after the hurricane passes, sometime after 11 p.m. tonight, call the Dallas County Emergency Operations Center at 874-2515.