BILOXI, Miss. — This city, home to 46,000 people, eight casinos and Keesler Air Force Base, intensified preparations as the storm tracked closer to Mississippi, issuing a state of emergency Monday and ordering marinas and RV parks to evacuate to higher ground.
Officials also urged residents in low-lying areas to seek shelter and warned them to take extra precautions to prevent spreading the coronavirus. Seawater crept closer to the strip of casinos on US-90 as residents and visitors packed up their campers, hitched their boats to pickup trucks and boarded up windows.
City officials cleared drains and prepared rescue gear in anticipation of heavy rains and storm surges, said Cecilia Dobbs Walton, a Biloxi spokeswoman.
“We do anticipate a lot of flooding,” she said Monday. “Heed the warnings, we tell our people. Just prepare. You’ve been through this before. You’ve been through worse. … Don’t let your guard down.”
The storm shifted as it headed toward the Gulf Coast, casting extra uncertainty into the area. Some last-minute preparations were underway as people boarded up houses or left low-lying areas. The thud of nail guns pierced the air.
“I blocked the windows off and hope for the best,” Tyrone Adams, a part-time courier who turns 57 on Thursday, said as he waited for a friend to drop off a package at a casino. “I can’t stop it. Hope that we don’t get pounded on.”
On Monday, Biloxi had the look of a fun house gone silent. Parking garages stared vacantly. Skies turned gray and winds gusted as the outer bands of the storm fanned the area. MGM Park, a minor league baseball field tucked into the waterfront district, stood empty.
Just before 2 p.m., Bernie and Mary Donlin, a long-married couple whose family home was destroyed in Hurricane Camille in 1969 and again during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, headed into the Boomtown Casino for lunch and to play the slots. Instead a voice came over the intercom saying it was closing early.
The couple said they were not worried about the storm, because they had since moved to higher ground in Biloxi.
“If we made it through Katrina and Camille, this will just be a pain in the behind,” Bernie Donlin, 71, said as the parking lot behind him emptied out.