MEMA drill puts Hurricane Wendi in Pascagoula

By Jon Kalahar - bio | email

RANKIN COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hurricane season doesn't start until June 1. But a fictional category four storm, Hurricane Wendi, hit Pascagoula Tuesday to prepare emergency coordinators for the real thing.

Inside the emergency operations center, every state agency that responds to a natural disaster was present. The goal? Know the plan and understand your responsibilities before the real thing happens.

"I think our plan and our system are much more complex than they were before," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack.

Womack says since Hurricane Katrina, communication has improved between MEMA, MDOT, Public Safety and the Department of Health.

"The flow of information is much better than it was, so we're able to track resources much better," said Womack.

And as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

"We'll take the lessons learned then after this and be able to improve our process. So, hopefully, we'll all be better able to protect our citizens," said Eric Dear with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

"This gives us a chance to figure out where the kinks are, what we need to do," said Warren Miller with the American Red Cross.

Local and county directors also got a behind the scenes look into all that goes into disaster response.

"My being here gives me the valuable training of knowing exactly how my EOC should be run in my county," said Leflore County EMA Director T.W. Cooper.

And while none of this prevents natural disasters, these people know it's the preparation for and response to major storms that makes the difference.

This exercise is an annual event in preparation for hurricane season. Hurricane season lasts until November 30.

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