Mid-South agencies prepare for storm’s impact

Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hurricane Laura has downgraded to a tropical storm as it heads towards the Mid-South.

Everyone from local emergency agencies to MLGW is on standby as they anticipate high winds and flooding Friday night as the storm makes its way through the area.

“In the state of Arkansas we’re going to be activating the state emergency operation center at noon today and we’re going to remain activated for about the next 30 hours or so,” said Melody Daniel, Arkansas Division of Emergency Management Public Information Officer.

With flooding being the biggest concern, Melody Daniel with Arkansas Emergency Management says her team is keeping a close eye on the entire state.

She also say there’s an Emergency Management office in every county.. and trusts they will be able to help anyone impacted.

Bud Spears with Crittenden County Emergency Management says they are working with the Red Cross to open a shelter for anyone impacted on the Gulf Coast.

“We’ll be working with those agencies and providing hurricane shelter at one of the local churches and the red cross will set that up,” said Bud Spears, Crittenden County Emergency Management Director.

In DeSoto County, Mississippi, emergency crews are also on standby.

“We’ve just been in constant contact with our trained swift water and flood water personnel, we’ve been checking off all of our equipment make sure it’s in a good state of readiness,” said Josh Harper, DeSoto County Emergency Services.

The City of Memphis started preparing early.

“A couple days ago our crews increased the number of storm drains we inspected and cleaned so we can try to get to many as those, because litter, trash and yard debris are somewhat of a problem and those can hinder some waterflow,” said Robert Knecht, City of Memphis Public Works Director.

Public Works Director Robert Knecht says the city had storm prep discussions with several agencies Thursday and will regroup Friday.

“Major communication with city leadership today, with all the divisions just kind of going through and making sure everybody is prepared you know Office of Emergency Management will be staffing, so they’ll be available for after call hours, the Memphis Police Department, the non-emergency, all that will be prepared,” said Knecht.

Knecht says MLGW was also part of the discussion.

The company said in a statement: “We are always prepared to deal with weather related outages. Restoration times may be extended due to COVID-19 safety measures. However, crews are prepared to work around the clock if needed.”

With potential flooding being the biggest concern Knecht says bridge underpasses can be especially dangerous.

He recommends drivers avoid those areas.

Knecht also says roads are a top priority.

“If we get a lot of tress down blocking roads, we gotta get those open to the public basically for emergency responses as well,” said Knecht.

The city is also asking residents to wait to put out their trash until Friday morning because it could get swept away by wind or water and end up clogging drainages.

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