Paul Sheffield of the Jones County Emergency Operations Center said the incoming Hurricane Sally will likely be a “repeat of December 2018 (flash flooding) with more wind.”
The National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office of Jackson met virtually with the EOC Monday morning in response to the impending landfall of Hurricane Sally, set to affect Jones County this afternoon (Tuesday). At the time of the meeting, the storm continued to track eastward toward Mississippi, with Jones County in its path, as the center of the storm was set to strike the Pine Belt. The best chances for tropical storm-force winds would be in southeast Mississippi, said John Moore of the WFO. He and Sheffield each said they believed rainfall and winds would lead to power outages.
Due to the slow-moving nature of the storm, the Pine Belt was set to see a long window of tropical storm conditions — approximately 12 hours. Six to 12 inches of rain is possible, officials said. Sally was categorized as a Category 1 hurricane just before noon Monday. Weather maps from the National Weather Service showed that Hattiesburg would take the worst beating as it lay in a severe risk area. Laurel lay in the elevated risk area, but “we’re in the same category as Hattiesburg as far as rain and wind,” Sheffield said.
“If it shifts any farther east, we’ll be out of tropical storm conditions,” he said. “I’m comparing it to (storms and flash-flooding in) December 2018. The southeastern side of Laurel through Sharon and Shady Grove Road, and north of Soso, we had 11.5 inches of rain in a 12-hour period.”
Even if Jones County doesn’t get that much rain this go-around, power outages are still likely, said Sheffield, who is executive director of the EOC.
“Let’s say we get 4 to 6 inches of rain,” he said. “If you have that with 30 or 40 mph winds, you’ll still have trees down. Every time we have a little summer thunderstorm, we get trees down in the road. That will bring down power lines and affect power. If this forecast holds true, we’ll have a busy couple of days. The aftermath will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
Rodney Parker of the EOC said Sally’s center was visible on the weather satellite weather map by midday Monday.
“Our primary concern is associated with the excessive rainfall and wind with already-weakened trees around the county potentially falling, causing traffic hazards and power outages as well as the threat to lives and property,” he wrote in an email. “Elevated threat of 30-40 mph sustained with gusts to 50 mph and power outages are expected and travel may be difficult.”
The most likely time for tropical storm-force winds to arrive is late this afternoon, he said. Rainfall of 6 to 12 inches is expected, with higher amounts possible. Heavy rainfall this morning is likely to begin ahead of high winds.
While Hurricane Laura posed the threat of creating tornado conditions in Jones, that is not quite the case with Sally, Sheffield said.
“Tornadoes will be a low threat in our area if the track stays,” he said. “If we were on the east side of the storm, we would see a tornado threat. The strength is on the storm’s east side, and the northeast side is its strongest point.”