JACKSON, MISS. – As Tropical Storm Nate moves into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is preparing for the storm to make landfall as a hurricane along Mississippi’s coastal counties.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. NHC forecasts Nate to make landfall as a Category 1 storm (winds near 80 mph) late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.

“What many people don’t realize is that MDOT crews are considered first responders when severe weather, including tropical storms and hurricanes, move through the state,” said Melinda McGrath, MDOT executive director. “MDOT is on the scene immediately after the storm passes to remove debris from affected roadways and clear a path for emergency, law enforcement and disaster relief personnel.”

MDOT began preparing response efforts Thursday. Crews throughout South Mississippi are stocking supplies and traffic control trailers, fueling vehicles and equipment, sharpening tools such as chainsaws, programming dynamic message sign (DMS) boards, staging equipment for quick response times and securing active highway maintenance and construction projects. Crews are lowering some high-mast lighting systems today along the Coast to prevent them from becoming projectiles during high winds.

MDOT has announced the following updates for impact to travelers.

The I-55 pavement rehabilitation project in McComb has been halted, and both northbound lanes are open to traffic throughout the weekend.

On the Interstate 10 widening project in Jackson County, two lanes will be open in both directions. Traffic barrels will remain in place on a 10-mile stretch of this project between Vancleave and the Alabama state line.
Sand removal crews are on standby and equipment-ready along U.S. Highway 90 on the Gulf Coast.

MDOT Enforcement Officers are prepared and on standby to assist MDOT maintenance crews and local law enforcement with traffic control as needed.

Motorists should be prepared to encounter congestion near drawbridges in coastal counties. There is potential for the drawbridges to be in use more frequently as marine vessels seek shelter.

Highway 57 at Red Creek in Jackson County remains closed after recently being struck by a truck carrying a track hoe. Motorists are advised to continue following posted signage and utilize State Route 26, State Route 63 and I-10 as alternate routes.

“The weather is unpredictable, and MDOT uses expert forecasts from the NHC and National Weather Service to prepare,” McGrath said. “MDOT crews are skilled for jobs like this to ensure the protection of human life and will be ready to quickly respond to any and all impacts this storm brings to the state.”

For current traffic and travel conditions, visit MDOTtraffic.com and follow @MississippiDOT on Twitter. For hurricane preparedness information, visit GoMDOT.com/hurricanes. For tips on driving in severe weather, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is responsible for providing a safe intermodal transportation network that is planned, designed, constructed and maintained in an effective, cost-efficient and environmentally sensitive manner. MDOT’s objective is to maximize taxpayer’s dollars by providing a safe, efficient multimodal network that enhances economic stability and growth. For more information, visit GoMDOT.com.