SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Emergency crews across the coast were put to the test Thursday morning after a severe thunderstorm dumped inches of rain on some parts of South Mississippi.
Many roads in Gulfport, Biloxi, D'Iberville and Ocean Springs are impassable. Water has crept into homes in some areas, and rescues are underway to get people out of their flooded homes and stalled vehicles. Gulfport High School is also flooded.
"We're busier with this than we have been in some small hurricanes," said Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt.
Beyerstedt said there have been 20 separate water rescues from cars and houses since 5 a.m., and crews have also responded to two structure fires caused by lightning strikes.
Emergency officials have deployed boats and military vehicles to assist with the rescues.
"Our crews have been successful so far saving people from serious injuries," said Beyerstedt.
The 361 Shelter on County Farm Rd. is open to anyone who feels unsafe in their home. The Red Cross is also distributing supplies in bulk (water, tarps, clean-up kits, etc.) primarily in the Orange Grove area near O'Neal, Dedeaux and Three Rivers roads. People in need of assistance should call 228-896-4511, or visit the shelter.
Police officers in Gulfport are also being stretched thin by what the National Weather service is calling a flash flood emergency.
Police Chief Leonard Papania said there are not enough police officers available to barricade off all of the flooded roads. To make matters worse, Papania said the flash flooding has caused many roads that normally don't flood to go underwater.
Power crews are also dealing with scattered outages in Harrison and Jackson Counties.
In Ocean Springs, Jackson County Emergency Services Director Earl Etheridge said a woman was trapped after lightning struck a tree and fell on her. The Gulf Park Estates Fire Department rescued the woman, who was not injured.
Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi has been closed to all non-essential personnel for the rest of the day. The White Ave. and Pass Rd. gates will open to traffic at 1 p.m.