Area braces for Dennis

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

It’s going to be worse this time, if the National Weather Service and Brett Howard are right.

Howard, head of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, told a crowd of medical workers, police officers, county officials and city officials that Hurricane Dennis is going to hit harder than Ivan, if forecasts are correct.

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The storm is expected to make landfall in the Pensacola, Fla. area at about 1 p.m. Sunday, according to forecasts.

In Selma, tropical storm force winds will be in effect by then. Hurricane force winds will start at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

The storm won’t let up until about 6 a.m. Monday morning.

Forecasters for the National Weather Service warned that Dennis has upgraded since yesterday morning. It was a Category 3 storm. Dennis is expected to be a Category 4 storm when it makes landfall.

During the storm, Dallas County residents can expect sustained wind speeds of 60 to 80 mph. with gusts over 100 mph.

Dennis was decreasing in power. Weather Service officials said they expected the storm to lose power as it crossed Cuba and entered a pool of cooler water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Those hopes turned out to be unfounded, as weather officials said the air pressure in the area of the storm dropped drastically, indicating an increase in power Saturday afternoon.

Increased power means increased wind speeds, more rain and an increased threat of tornadoes.

Howard said the Dallas County area won’t see the eye of Dennis, but because the storm is expected to go to the west of the county, the risk of winds, rain and tornados is increased.

Already, Dallas County was feeling the effects of Dennis Saturday afternoon, as rain, thunderstorms and hail came through the area.

Howard said the nasty weather was a direct result of Dennis hitting the coast.

To make matters worse, Howard said aid from the state or federal officials may be delayed, depending on how bad the storm hits south of Dallas County.

The worst hit areas will be served first, according to Howard.

Howard said that area residents should stay indoors during the duration of the storm. Any residents with insecure housing, like mobile homes, are urged to evacuate to area Red Cross shelters.

Howard said that in the event of blocked roads or downed power lines, residents should call the EMA office to get help dispatched at 874-2515.

In the event that a tree falls on a home, or any other emergency, Howard said to call 911.

For power outages, Howard said help would be provided more quickly if a resident called their electricity provider.

He said, however, that help wouldn’t come until it was safe for emergency workers to drive.