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Isidore weakens, dangers still present

While levees broke in Louisiana and evacuations began along the Gulf Shores, residents of Andalusia and Covington County prepared for the worst. High winds and heavy rains were Isidore's contribution to Covington County as the storm moved north and east, but as it weakened, it appeared to be sending its worst damage elsewhere.

Schools closed Thursday with administrators concerned about the impending storm, and both city and county experienced power outages, but compared to areas south and west, damage was minor.

Gov. Don Siegelman declared a state of emergency to provide state resources to Mobile and Baldwin counties, both of which have been affected by Tropical Storm Isidore. Siegelman also activated the Alabama national Guard to assist local governments in responding to the tropical storm.

"The declaration allows for the immediate provision of state resources to local communities in Mobile and Baldwin counties to assist with voluntary evacuation measures and possible flood control missions," Siegelman said.

Siegelman directed Lee Helms, acting director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA), and Brig. Gen. Mike Sumrall, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, to coordinate any requests from local EMAs for state assistance to local communities. National Guard officials have joined AEMA officials at the state, Baldwin County and Mobile County EOCs to direct state assistance.

In Baldwin County, the National Guard is assisting with voluntary evacuation measures, while the Alabama Marine Police is on standby at the Baldwin County EOC for possible evacuation of the Fish River area.

In Mobile County, the National Guard has coordinated sandbagging efforts with the Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Mobile County EMA.

Local EMAs and the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) have joined forces with the American Red Cross (ARC) to open public shelters in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

The Clanton EOC, which Siegelman activated yesterday is operation on a 24-hour basis with emergency coordinators in place from the National Guard, Alabama Department of Public Safety, DOT, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, DHR and ARC.

But Thursday morning's light brush with Isidore should not be taken lightly. Tornados are still a potential threat and the area from Mobile to Montgomery has been under a tornado watch. Even straightline winds are causing severe damage in other counties and could pose a threat in Covington, and low-lying areas still face the possibility of flooding.

Residents and visitors to Alabama should continue to monitor local television and radio for updates on Tropical Storm Isidore.