Area residents keep eye on Arlene

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Just two weeks into the 2005 hurricane season,

Butler County finds itself under the gun with the approach of Tropical Storm Arlene.

According to the National Weather Service advisory, Tropical Storm Arlene drenched Cuba on Friday, then grew stronger and quicker while moving north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Forecasters said Arlene, the Atlantic hurricane season's first named tropical storm, could become a weak hurricane before hitting the Deep South late Saturday, with the worst weather arriving earlier, east of the storm's center.

Arlene was then expected to move along the Mississippi-Alabama line, reaching Tennessee by Sunday afternoon.

According to David Baxley, a meteorologist with WAKA CBS-8, the storm will not be repeat of Hurricane Ivan that devastated the area last September.

"We are expecting wind gusts up to 40 to 50 mph, but we don't expect it to anything like Ivan," he said Friday. "There could be some localized power outages and it could cause some local flooding.

I'm calling for the area to get 3 to 6 inches of rain."

He said there is hope that the storm won't stall out over the area for several days due to another storm.

"There is currently a big storm system in the Great Plains that should keep this one moving," he said.

"People should get ready for some heavy rains and plan to stay in this weekend. Just don't panic, this isn't going to be another Ivan."

According to Butler County EMA Director Bob Luman, the state EMA is closely monitoring the storms.

"We have talked to the Red Cross and the Department of Human Resources and are ready to open a shelter if we need to," he said.

"Right now we have not been ordered to open one."

He said during his last conference call, the decision to Pensacola Beach was made and that the Gulf Shores area could follow suit.

Staying in is something the Alabama state troopers hope will happen this weekend.

On Friday, the department issued a travel advisory urging motorists to drive with extreme caution while on roadways.

Public Safety Director Col. W.M. Coppage said troopers were on standby to assist with emergency response should flooding develop in the state's southern section.

Coppage asked that drivers keep a close watch on developing weather conditions and encouraged motorists to monitor local television and radio broadcasts for information on weather and roadway conditions. He asked that they contact trooper posts only to report traffic crashes or other emergencies so phone lines would be open for any emergency calls. He added that Public Safety's Web site,

includes a link to the ALDOT's list of emergency road closures.

Troopers offer the following suggestions to help insure the safety of motorists during inclement weather:

_ Avoid travel during heavy downpours unless absolutely necessary.

_ Turn on lights and windshield wipers.

_ Never attempt to drive across a water-covered roadway. Water depth and movement can be deceptive.

_ Drive at a lower speed appropriate for road and weather conditions.

Coppage reminded drivers that wet, slippery roadways and decreased visibility resulting from heavy rainfall make for extremely hazardous driving. He stressed the importance of reducing driving speeds during inclement weather, along with keeping a safe distance between vehicles.