Tropical Storm Watch Posted for Mississippi Coast

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Preparations for Tropical Storm Barry began Saturday on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the powerful storm churned its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency and made plans to meet throughout the weekend to discuss updates from the National Weather Service. Barry dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of Florida before moving farther into the Gulf of Mexico.

It produced up to six- and eight-foot waves and rip tides along Alabama's coastline, and helped by northeast winds and a full moon _ lifted tides 2 feet above normal on the north side of Grand Isle, Louisiana's only inhabited barrier island.

Jackson County Civil Defense Todd Adams called Barry a dangerous storm that could have more impact than Tropical Storm Allison in June. ``We have seen the rain from Barry and what it did to Florida,'' Adams said.

``The remnants of Allison dropped nine inches of rain in some portions of the county and we flooded and this is a full-blown tropical storm.'' Allison caused extensive flooding in Texas and Louisiana moved into Mississippi on June 11, spawning flash flooding and sending rivers and streams out of their banks.

At least three confirmed tornados hit in southern counties, including one that left extensive damage in George County. At least 500 homes in Harrison, Hancock, Jackson, George and Pearl River were flooded by that storm. ``Anything tropical coming out of the Gulf of Mexico is going to have a lot of water with it, so Barry is a big concern,'' Adams said.

By 2 p.m. EDT Saturday, Barry was centered about 240 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It was moving slowly and erratically and had maximum sustained wind of about 40 mph, the hurricane center said.

It was expected to strengthen to about 70 mph, 5 mph short of hurricane strength, by the time it makes landfall, but even that could be devastating. ``They are expecting landfall near Ocean Springs about 7 a.m. on Monday with tropical storm force winds reaching us Sunday night at about 8 p.m.,'' Adams said.

Ivy Lacy, operations officer for the Harrison County Civil Defense, said ``our office is fully staffed and we are gearing up.'' Harrison County had not declared a local state of emergency by Saturday afternoon. Damage to public property and infrastructure by Allison in Mississippi was estimated at more than $5 million.