Along low-lying areas along Mississippi's Gulf Coast on Wednesday hurricane-driven water rose several feet in some spots while thousands waited out the storm in shelters. Utilities were reporting more than 15,000 people without power Wednesday and several hundred more scattered around south Mississippi.
Harrison County emergency management director Rupert Lacy said the storm surge coupled with the high tide could lead to more extensive flooding. Lacy said coastal rivers also were beginning to rise from the rainfall.
Hancock County Emergency Management Director Brian Adam said the water stood up to 4 feet deep in many low-lying areas of Hancock County and was still rising while the vast storm system lumbered off the mouth of the Mississippi River.
"It's flooding in quite a bit of places," Adam said, citing reports from Pearlington, Lakeshore and parts of Waveland and Bay St. Louis.
Police waved drivers off U.S. 90, the main beach road in Gulfport, because of flooding. A billboard had torn loose and water stood foot-deep in some areas, knee-deep elsewhere.
Adam said crews successfully rescued three people who had called for help after a houseboat broke loose in Pearlington, near the Louisiana state line but had no major incidents to report immediately.
Hancock County is unusually vulnerable to storm surge because water driven into the Mississippi Sound piles up against the V-shape coast where Louisiana and Mississippi come together. Adam said he wasn't sure if any structures had been damaged. Most buildings destroyed by 2005's Hurricane Katrina in Hancock County were elevated when rebuilt.