County avoids Katrina#039;s wrath

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Crenshaw County escaped the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, but no one could escape the vivid pictures and stories emerging from the Gulf Coast on television after the Category 4 made landfall on Monday near Biloxi, Miss.

"It's like the end of the world down there," said Crenshaw County School System Superintendent Kathi Wallace, a frequent visitor to New Orleans, a city that may never be the same following Katrina's onslaught which left 80 percent of the Big Easy underwater.

In Mississippi, most notably Biloxi and Gulfport, Katrina's storm surge pushed floating casinos inland, lifting the large buildings and depositing them on top of homes and hotels across highways.

In Luverne, well east of the storm, brief squalls and slight wind blew through the area in the afternoon, but no damage was reported.

Wallace said Crenshaw County schools let out at 1 p.m. on Monday, under advice from the National Weather Center. While wind wasn't nearly as devastating as Hurricane Opal, which blew through Luverne in 1995, there was still the threat of tornadoes as Katrina's feeder bands crossed the state.

"They told us we would be okay up until that point, but then we should close," she said. "Everyone got out okay."

While Katrina's heaviest blows did not reach Crenshaw County, its effects were already being felt in Luverne late Wednesday as gas prices jumped to over $2.75 at some stations. In Washington D.C. prices soared past $3.00, even as the Bush Administration announced plans to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves to offset the loss of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Katrina's path through the Gulf of Mexico is estimated to have shut down at least 95 percent oil production.

Alabama State Troopers also reported on Wednesday that gas was scarce in parts of southwest Alabama and warned motorists to fill up tanks well in advance before going that way.

Gov. Bob Riley issued a statement on Wednesday urging Alabamians to conserve fuel.

"I've talked with federal officials and they've assured me this disruption of the gasoline supply is one of their top priorities and they're working to correct the problem.

I'm hoping this will be a short-term disruption.

In the meantime, citizens can continue to do their part by purchasing and using fuel responsibly. I'm encouraging Alabamians to be patient and to conserve the gasoline they have," said

Riley.