November 9, 2009 11:16:00 AM
PASCAGOULA -- Coastal areas of Mississippi were under a tropical storm warning Monday after Ida lost strength over the water on its way to a landfall sometime early Tuesday.
Hurricane warnings were dropped along the Gulf Coast and replaced with tropical storm warnings that stretch from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
In Gulfport, 17-year-old Blaise Gargiulo, who was let out of school early because of the storm, went to retrieve his catamaran from its mooring in front of his beach front home.
Gargiulo said he learned an expensive lesson last year with the storm surge from Hurricane Gustav. He said the surge crushed the hulls on each side of this boat cost $1,000 dollars in repairs.
The wind was whipping up the surf in the Mississippi Sound, but Garguilo had no plans to go sailing.
"You can sail in this, but it''s difficult," he said. "They flip pretty easily."
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, acting on behalf of Gov. Haley Barbour who was in Washington D.C., issued a state of emergency for areas of Mississippi expected to be impacted by high winds and heavy rainfall from Ida.
"While Ida appears to be weakening, we urge that residents, particularly in low-lying, flood-prone areas, continue to be vigilant, prudent, and alert to any changes," Barbour said in a statement.
The declaration allows for the deployment of some members the Mississippi National Guard and puts the Department of Public Safety and other state agencies on special alert. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has already deployed to the Gulf Coast and is coordinating with local emergency officials.
Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding closed Monday''s second and third shifts for workers at its Pascagoula, Gulfport and Avondale, La., shipyards. The only exceptions are ship watches, maintenance and security personnel, or anyone notified by a supervisor.
Officials said operations would resume on first shift Tuesday.
Many schools in the three coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson had let out at midday Monday in anticipation of the storm.
Although Ida was downgraded, emergency officials said the main threats remained heavy rainfall, strong winds and storm surges along the coast and the possibility of some damage.
"One of my main concerns is that people will not take this storm seriously now that it has shown signs of weakening," said MEMA Director Mike Womack in a press release. "Tropical storms are still capable of producing flooding rains and damaging winds and Ida has already proven to be a tough storm to predict."
The National Weather Service said Harrison and Hancock counties could expect tides 2 to 3 feet above normal late Monday, while Jackson can expect at least three to five above normal tides.
Forecasters said 2 to 4 inches of rain can also be expected along the Mississippi Coast.
In the three coastal counties, emergency officials were expecting some flooding in low-lying areas as the storm closed in on the Gulf Coast.
Residents of low-lying areas were advised Sunday to take precautions such as moving vehicles and securing property. The opening of some shelters would accompany any evacuations.
No evacuations have been ordered Monday along the Mississippi Coast.
1. Coach Marsh will be remembered COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY