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Some wind, rain expected by Sunday from Gustav

Local officials continue to keep an eye on Hurricane Gustav as it churns in the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm grew into a Category 1 hurricane Friday. It is on track to strike anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to eastern Texas sometime next week.

At 2 p.m. Friday, local officials gathered at the briefing room in the Dallas County Courthouse Annex to receive the latest update from the National Weather Service.

“Right now they are saying Sunday we will have rain and winds 10 to 20 mph,” said Pam Cook, director of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency.

John Sirmon, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said tornadoes and rains of 3 to 4 inches could become possible as the storm moves closer.

“The considerable amount of moisture in the soil could affect some trees,” he said of the additional rain.

In some cases, where more rain is received, flooding is possible in low-lying areas and near rivers and streams, he added.

Gov. Bob Riley declared an official state of emergency Friday because of the threat by Gustav.

“The tracking of Hurricane Gustav indicates that Alabama is at risk to sustain damage from high winds, heavy rains and possible tornadoes,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “I am again urging everyone to take the necessary precautions to ensure your and your family’s safety. Because of the high possibilities of damage, it is extremely important to have a declaration in place.”

Alfa Insurance has put its claims adjusters on standby across the Southeast and will send more people to affected areas if needed, according to spokesman David C. Rickey.

Because of Gustav, the U.S. Postal Service, the Social Security Administration and the Financial Management Service has made arrangements to release monthly benefit checks for delivery to ZIP Code ranges 364-366, which includes the City of Mobile and adjacent Gulf Coast areas.

Delivery of the checks began Friday and final delivery is scheduled for close of business today, according to Doug Kyle of the Postal Service.

Selma and Dallas County are not included in the early release.

“The intent of the early release of checks is to provide for safe and timely delivery to potentially storm affected areas,” he said. “As always, the safety of our employees, the sanctity and security of the mail, and service to our customers remain our top priorities,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.