Alabama braces for Ivan – High winds, heavy rain expected in Shelby County

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Batteries and bottled water were already in scarce supply Tuesday as county residents scrambled in preparation for strong winds gleaming from the path of Hurricane Ivan.

Shelby County Emergency Management Director Don Greene said Tuesday he expects winds with speeds between 60 and 75 miles per hour to reach the county by 9 p.m. Thursday.

Rainfall totals from four to eight inches could accompany the winds, which Greene said are expected to leave the county by 7 a.m. Friday.

&uot;Certainly you could get some storm damage and down trees, which could cause some damage,&uot; Greene said.

Particularly, county residents might experience power outtages. Greene noted that outtages could last multiple days in case of widespread damage.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Ivan was located about 325 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Ivan was moving toward the north-northwest near 10 mph.

Maximum sustained winds were near 140 mph, with higher gusts.

Ivan remained a powerful Category Four hurricane Tuesday. Ivan is expected to make landfall on Wednesday as a major hurricane, at least Category Three, according to the National Weather Service.

On Tuesday night, Ivan remained a large hurricane with winds extending 105 miles from the center. Tropical force winds extended outward up to 260 miles.

The storm is expected to reach Shelby County by about 9 p.m. Thursday, lasting through about 7 a.m. Friday morning. Winds in Shelby County could range between 40 and 75 mph, with four to eight inches of rain accumulating.

With a combination of strong winds and intense rain, Greene said the county could receive an unusual mix.

&uot;I think that we in Shelby County will be experiencing some things we have never experienced from a hurricane,&uot; Greene said.

Greene encouraged Shelby County residents to prepare themselves.

&uot;What they need to do is at least prepare themselves with the necessities like food and water,&uot; he said. &uot;Keep up with the news media and go from there.&uot;

Hurricane Ivan was expected to make landfall near Mobile Thursday morning and track across west central Alabama, passing between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham by Friday morning. The storm is expected to then continue northeastward and weaken to a tropical depression by Friday night.

County and state emergency management officials held meetings throughout the day Tuesday and planned the same today. At least some offices and schools were expected to close Thursday and Friday.

Interstate-65 was packed with a steady stream of traffic headed north from the ordered evacuation of Baldwin and Mobile counties and parts of the Florida Panhandle.

State transportation officials were prepared to open southbound lanes for evacuees driving north should the need arise.

Two shelters for evacuees from the hurricane have already opened in the county. The American Red Cross of the greater Birmingham area opened a shelter in Alabaster at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center.

&uot;This is for evacuees. If we get needs locally, we’re going to be addressing those as well,&uot; said Red Cross spokesman Isaac Pigott.

Limited cots will be available at Red Cross shelters.

The service center is located at Exit 238 in Alabaster.

Pelham city officials decided Tuesday to open a shelter to prepare for evacuation of some of the city’s residents who live in mobile home parks. Pelham designated the Pelham Civic Complex as a disaster shelter beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents are encouraged to bring their own bedding to the Pelham shelter.

The Shelby County Emergency Management office has also issued lists of items for disaster supply kits. Residents lined up to fill their tanks at gas stations. Grocery stores made special displays of bottled water and bread, although supplies quickly ran out.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Calera tracked the storm on radar and held conference calls with Montgomery and Washington, D.C., officials throughout the early part of the week. The storm’s projected path gradually shifted west, extending forecast warnings to include the greater New Orleans area