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Barry downgraded to tropical depression

BY LARA BRICKER | SELMA, AL | August 6, 2001

The remnants of Tropical Storm Barry raced across Florida and central Alabama Monday, leaving blown down trees and power outages in its wake.

Although the storm had some hurricane characteristics as it hit the coast, it never quite become a hurricane, but was a very strong tropical storm with sustained winds of 70 MPH.

But by 10 AM (EDT), the storm's remnants were centered about 30 miles south of Selma, AL and moving northwest at 14 MPH.

Coastal tropical storm watches and warnings were discontinued this morning, but the National Weather Service posted flood watches for west central Georgia and warned that isolated tornadoes might be spawned by the unstable air.

The Salvation Army had three canteens open on Monday morning, according to Kevin Smith, disaster director for The Salvation Army's Florida Division. And the American Red Cross opened 13 shelters across the Panhandle Sunday night.

The Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church was preparing for Barry’s arrival, according to Lawrence Bowden, the Alabama Disaster Coordinator for the conference. “It looks like we’re going to be the recipient of most of it,” Bowden said Sunday afternoon as he coordinated relief efforts.

Although the winds are expected to continue to diminish today, the storm's biggest legacy may be flooding.

Forecasters are warning the remnants of the storm may linger over Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana for a few days producing serious inland flooding in the southcentral Mississippi valley. Bowden said he was most concerned about the flooding that is expected from Barry. “We’ll be watching for flash floods,” he said.

Disaster response volunteers were preparing to assist possible flood victims along the Gulf of Mexico. Officials of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) said the Sager-Brown Depot in Baldwin, LA is preparing to send flood buckets and cleaning supplies to the affected area.

Local volunteers along the Gulf Coast from Adventist Community Services are preparing to move in and help where they are needed, said Larry Buckner, the Disaster Response Coordinator for ACS. “Local people are doing assessments and getting their teams up and on alert,” he said.

Meanwhile, residents in Florida are still recovering from over a foot of rain that has deluged the area since Barry passed through the state Wednesday night. Volunteers from the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church have been working since the rains from the tropical storm began on Wednesday night, said Bill Rhan, the Conference Disaster Coordinator.

Calls for help have been coming from southeast Florida in the Miami-Dade County, the west coast from Fort Meyers south and Martin County, which has declared a state of emergency. Volunteers are bringing flood buckets and compassion to the victims. “These (volunteers) cry over this, they know these people and how devastated they are because they’ve been out and interviewed them and helped them,” Rhan said.

Hardest hit by Barry was Martin County, FL, which suffered flooding long before Barry made landfall. Salvation Army units provided hot meals and drinks to disaster victims and emergency workers over the weekend and delivered more than 1,000 gallons of water.

Although the rain has displaced many residents, it has put a temporary end to a long drought in the state. “We really need the water in the Everglades very bad, we are hoping for more of these kinds of (rains) because this is the only way our water supply will build back up,” Rhan said, adding the soil in the state is such that flooding tends to dissipate quickly. “The flooding is usually very short.”

Forecasters said Monday that it is possible remnants of the storm will spend several days in the upper Mississippi River valley, further compounding flood problems in Louisiana.

The Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness is still tallying up damages reported by individual residents from Tropical Storm Allison. So far over 26,500 people have registered for disaster assistance from that storm.

On Wednesday night while Barry was still classified as a tropical wave, areas in eastern and central Florida were drenched with eight to 10 inches of rain in only a few hours Martin County, which is north of Palm Beach, declared a state of emergency Thursday.

“Some neighborhoods are completely under water,” said Rob Shelt, Disaster Director for the Martin County Red Cross. “But spirits are high and people are lending a hand to their neighbors.”

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