Storm’s path uncertain, but local agencies ready
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
No one is exactly sure when or where Hurricane Delta, which is expected to reach Category 4 strength by Wednesday morning (October 7), will make landfall in the U.S., but local emergency officials are preparing for the possibility it will follow the lead of Hurricane Sally.
Sally came ashore at Gulf Shores on September 16 as a Category 2 storm packing winds of more than 70 mph. It raged on through Mobile and Baldwin counties and was still a Category 1 storm when it roared into Escambia County (Ala.) and Atmore.
Sally toppled trees onto houses, power lines and vehicles but caused no deaths or serious injuries here. Its presence in Atmore marked the city’s first direct impact from a major storm in more than three years.
“We are more prepared now; we know what we have to have,” Mayor Jim Staff said of the approaching hurricane, which was expected to strike Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday, then head back into the Gulf of Mexico. “We dodged a bullet when Laura came through, but Sally hit us head-on. We’ll be ready if this one hits us.”
Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles, Police Chief Chuck Brooks and Streets & Sanitation Department Director Calvin Grace reported that their agencies are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Although forecasters aren’t certain, Delta is expected to move into the western Gulf either Wednesday or Thursday but isn’t expected to hit the U.S. coast until Saturday. Current projections are that the cyclone will make landfall somewhere between the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama or the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 hurricane.
Delta’s interactions with the remnants of Tropical Storm Gamma could result in a sharp westward jog, after which a sharp turn back toward the northwest could occur, the National Hurricane Center said.
On the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, the wind categories are: Tropical storm, 39 to 73 mph; Category 1 hurricane, 74 to 95 mph; Category 2 hurricane, 96 to 110 mph; Category 3 hurricane, 111 to 129 mph.