The Stone County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency and voted to close county offices at a special-called meeting on Friday afternoon as Hurricane Ida advances for the Gulf Coast.

With the declaration in place, the county’s Emergency Management Agency continues to prepare for the worst.

“I think we are ready for what’s coming for us,” SCEMA Director Mike Williams said.

The declaration will not impact essential county employees and first responders who will continue to work and respond.

Hurricane Ida is expected to strengthen as she enters the Gulf of Mexico. Warmer waters in the Gulf fuel strong winds. As of Friday evening, Ida is projected to make landfall as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane on Sunday, August 29.

Shelters and Evacuation:

He said the county is already beginning to warn residents in low-lying areas susceptible to flooding to seek higher ground. Residents who live near creeks and other bodies of water should prepare for large amounts of rain over the weekend as the storm approaches.

Williams is in contact with the American Red Cross. The organization is preparing to operate the emergency shelter located at Stone Elementary School as the main shelter.

Due to COVID-19 cases surging in the area, Williams said, as of now, the Red Cross is planning to open a secondary shelter at Stone High School for anyone with symptoms or those who know they are positive for the virus.

Residents seeking shelter at the SES site will be screened and transported to a secondary location if necessary.

The Red Cross will be asking those who seek refuge to be mindful of precautions and social distance.

Sandbags:

As of Friday, sandbags and sand are available to residents on-site at the County’s Emergency Center located at 533 First Street South. The county will possibly open a second site as officials prepare for the storm.

Schools:

Stone County Schools are all virtual schooling this week. The high school is scheduled to return to in-person class on Monday, August 30; however, Superintendent Inita Owen told the Supervisors the high school staff is on standby this weekend.

Owen said she is prepared to cancel class on Monday as necessary.

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