PEARL, MISS. – The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has upgraded Nate to a Category 1 hurricane. Forecasts show Hurricane Nate making landfall late tonight along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurricane and tropical storm warnings have been issued for 14 counties in South Mississippi.
“The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is monitoring forecast models 24/7 from the NHC and the National Weather Service (NWS),” said Melinda McGrath, MDOT executive director. “MDOT is preparing to ensure equipment is in place and experienced crews are ready to activate as first responders as soon as the storm passes.”
Today, MDOT crews are lowering high-mast lighting systems along the Gulf Coast and working with local cities and counties to lower theirs. This will prevent lights from becoming projectiles during high winds. MDOT crews are removing traffic controllers from 54 signals along U.S. Highway 90 in Harrison County and placing them in flash mode as the because they are prone to flooding.
MDOT began preparations Thursday, including stocking supplies and traffic control trailers, fueling vehicles and equipment, sharpening tools such as chainsaws, programming dynamic message sign (DMS) boards, staging equipment for quick response times and securing active highway maintenance and construction projects.
Current predictions have Nate producing hurricane force winds as it comes ashore. Heavy rainfall associated with Nate could bring flash flooding and flooding in low lying areas. There is potential for sections of U.S. Highway 90 and other routes to flood in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties late this evening as a result of storm surge.
Local officials will issue guidance on evacuations. Should evacuation be part of your preparedness plan, visit www.GoMDOT.com/hurricanes for route information. Some areas along the Coast have already issued mandatory evacuations of low lying areas.
MDOT urges motorists to stay off roadways during the storm, but if emergency travel is required, use these safety tips:
Once the storm passes, citizens are encouraged to limit travel to allow MDOT crews to inspect roadways and bridges, and remove debris to allow for first responders and emergency personnel to safely enter areas affected by the storm and respond to those in need. Flooded roadways or debris blocking roadways should be reported to local law enforcement.
“We strongly advise motorists stay off the roads to keep you and your family safe during this storm, McGrath said. “Remember to avoid flooded roadways under any circumstances and never drive through a flooded or barricaded area.”
Motorists are advised to follow @MississippiDOT on Twitter and Facebook, and stay updated on current live traffic and travel conditions at MDOTtraffic.com, download the MDOT Traffic mobile app or call 511 in Mississippi.