Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

Greenville braces for Sunday arrival of Hurricane Dennis

By Kevin Taylor

Butler County Emergency Management Director Bob Luman was supposed to have the roof of his home fixed this weekend.

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The damage came from Hurricane Ivan, which tore through Greenville in September 2004.

Less than a year later, Butler County residents are preparing for Hurricane Dennis to strike Sunday afternoon.

And this hurricane seems to be following a similar path as Ivan, said National Hurricane Center spokesman Frank Lepore.

"They are somewhat similar, but not exactly," he said earlier this week.

By late Friday evening, Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Ceinfuegos, Cuba, and was crossing over the western half of the island heading in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, according to information from The Weather Channel.

The Category 4 hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, is forecast to reach the Alabama-Florida coastline by 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

"By the time the storm hits Greenville, it could see winds in excess of 100 mph," said David Baxley, meteorologist for WAKA CBS-TV in Montgomery. "It will weaken a little by the time it reaches Greenville."

Baxley said Hurricane Dennis could be a "strong" Category 1 or weak Category 2 hurricane when it reaches Butler County.

A hurricane of this strength is rare for the Gulf of Mexico in July, Baxley said.

"The waters are so warm right now, that the hurricane can feed off of it and grow," he said. "Usually you don't see hurricanes of this magnitude until August or September like we saw in Ivan."

While Hurricane Dennis is more than a day away from reaching the Alabama coast, Gov. Bob Riley asked that residents of Mobile and Baldwin counties begin to evacuate now.

It is expected that Interstate 65 will become a one-way interstate as early as this morning. All traffic from Mobile to just south of Montgomery will be one way.

So anyone wanting to travel south, would be asked to use alternate highways.

In getting ready for the hurricane's landfall, Baxley said that communication will be the key.

"People need to stock up on batteries and make sure they have a battery-powered radio or TV to know what's going on," he said.

And the effect of Hurricane Ivan has not been forgotten.

Daphne resident Bill Smith boarded up his house on Thursday and left in his motorhome for Greenville.

Sherling Lake Campground is expected to be closed at some point this weekend, said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon.

"I'm not sure where I'll go now," Smith said after learning the campground would be closing. I may go to Troy."

Area utilities are warning that usages of telephone, Internet and power could be lost because of Hurricane Dennis.

"Technicians will be working overtime to get lines open as quickly as possible," according to a statement from CenturyTel.

Pioneer Electric Cooperative spokesman Terry Wilhite warns its customers that they could lose power for "several days."

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and know that we're trying to move heaven and Earth to make this the best situation possible," he said.