Local emergency officials prepare for the worst from Hurricane Ike

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Sept. 11, 2008 - Hopkins County emergency officials are preparing for Hurricane Ike's potential impact on Hopkins County this weekend.

The National Weather Service today issued a special weather statement warning of the possibility of of strong winds, up to 5 inches of heavy rain, and possible tornado activity Saturday, provided Ike continues on its current path.

County emergency officials have been monitoring the storm's progress and are staying in contact with state officials to be as prepared as possible for whatever effect the hurricane might have locally.

"The county [Emergency Operations Center] is fully operational and we are planning for the possibility of local flooding and the storm traveling into this area Saturday," Hopkins County Emergency Operations Coordinator Carl Nix said just before noon Thursday.

The Emergency Operations Center was "fully activated" at 10 a.m. to monitor the situation and to implement the local emergency plan if needed, according to Nix.

Emergency officials will continue to monitor weather conditions and stay in contact with state and regional emergency officials as they have been doing since Hopkins County was identified as one area which could be affected by the hurricane's inland journey from Texas coast.

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, anticipating a possible disaster, following state officials' lead and declared a state of local disaster Wednesday for Hopkins County.

According to the judge's disaster order, the declaration was made "based on the existence of such threat and direct that all necessary measures both public and private as authorized" under state law be implemented to meet the threat.

The order also suspends "all rules and regulation that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat" for the duration of the disaster declaration, which will continue up to 7 days unless the Hopkins County Commissioners Court votes to extend it.

This marks the second time emergency officials have been on alert in recent weeks. They also monitored the potential impact from Hurricane Gustav, which aside from some rain and wind didn't significantly impact Hopkins County.

Red Cross officials held a training session for volunteers should they be needed in Hopkins County this weekend. As of this morning, however, there were no plans to mobilize Red Cross workers.

Anyone who was unable to attend the training but is interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer is urged to contact the Sulphur Springs office of Star Country Radio for more details.

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