August 30, 2012 9:50:50 AM
GULFPORT -- A tow truck driver was killed Thursday morning in Pearl River County when a tree fell on his truck, the first death in Mississippi from Isaac.
The death of the unidentified driver on a Picayune, Miss., street came during heavy rain and wind from Isaac, said Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley. Manley said a tree fell on the cab of the truck on Goodyear Boulevard in Picayune just after midnight, crushing the cab.
Isaac was expected to dump heavy rain on much of central and south Mississippi on Thursday as the storm system meandered slowly northward Thursday on a path toward Arkansas.
Signs of life were returning to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where overnight curfews expired. Intermittent rain and winds gusts winds continued Thursday as traffic returned to the roads and businesses opened up.
Many roads remained impassable in some rural and low-lying areas. The Mississippi Department of Transportation reported some road closings due to downed trees and power lines.
President Obama declared federal emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi. The declarations free up federal aid for affected areas.
Many counties in central and south Mississippi were under a tornado watch until 4 p.m. Flash-flood watches also were issued by the National Weather Service.
Manley said Interstate 59 in Pearl River County is covered by water 6 inches deep at its crossing over the Wolf River, and. waters were rising just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Creeks in the county aren't forecast to crest until early Friday morning, meaning flooding is likely to worsen throughout the day Thursday. County officials rescued four people from the waters overnight, Manley said.
He said high winds have also damaged some structures in the county, including ripping a roof off a mobile home in the Pine Grove community.
In Jackson County, rising waters were driving dozens of people from their homes in the Kreole community on the eastern edge of Moss Point.
Monica Cooper, a spokeswoman for the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said authorities evacuated people from the area Thursday morning. She said some people were also being rescued in areas of Pascagoula south of U.S. 90 and that there are also reports of rising flood waters in Escatawpa.
Cooper said residents are telling authorities that some houses have flooded, although it's unclear how many at this point.
There are also reports of high winds associated with a tornado warning in Pascagoula. City Councilman Frank Corder said at least two homes were damaged. There have been no reports of injuries.
Utility crews were back out Thursday working to restore power to more than 63,000 customers in south and central Mississippi.
Many utility crews were called in Wednesday night after winds from Isaac got too strong.
Entergy officials say there were 4,789 customers without power and 651,063 outages in Entergy's four-state area of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The Electrical Power Association of Mississippi has the most customers without power - some 38,000 customers, mostly in coastal and southwestern counties.
Mississippi Power Co. was reporting about 10,000 customers without power, with the majority of those outages being reported in Harrison County.
"Mississippi Power line crews have been working to restore power in areas deemed safe for the last 48 hours," said Mississippi Power Storm Director Randall Pinkston. "On Thursday, they'll be joined by reinforcements from Georgia Power and other utilities. These crews are experienced in emergency storm restoration."
Mississippi Power serves 23 mostly southeastern Mississippi counties.
Mike Efferson, a meteorologist in the Slidell, La., office of the National Weather Service, said tropical storm force winds could continue past midnight into early Thursday morning. Weather forecasters are also predicting as many as 11 inches of rain by Monday for parts of Mississippi.
In Pascagoula, Doug Adams, spokesman for the Pascagoula Police Department said, "A large portion of Pascagoula is flooded, roads that don't usually have water on them are covered and water is deeper in areas that are prone to flooding."
Adams said water has blocked U.S. Highway 90 at Market Street, in the heart of the traffic area of downtown.