EMA directors talk about shelter, transportation changes for '09 hurricane season

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's a familiar message, but one emergency management officials say you can't afford to ignore.

"People need to prepare. Top everything off, change out the food supply, refresh the water and look at how much cash you have set aside," said Rupert Lacy, Harrison County's Emergency Management Director.

"Know your evacuation plan, know where you're going. Don't hesitate, evacuate," said Brian Adam, Hancock County's Emergency Management Director.

If you evacuated by bus to Jackson last year, that's no longer an option.

"We've been advised there's not going to be state bus transportation this year," Adam said.

But, officials say they have CTA and school buses ready to take people to local shelters, just as they've done in past years.

People also need to know there are some changes to contraflow this year.  Those headed north on I-59 must travel farther north this year before being allowed to exit.

"They have extended the length of the contraflow farther north this year.  I think it's another 30 miles they've added to it," said Donald Langham, Jackson County's Emergency Management Director.

No matter how much officials encourage evacuation, complacency is always a concern.  They say people quickly forget just how high the water can get.  In cities like Biloxi, officials are putting high water marks on light poles to remind people just how bad things have been in past storms. Lacy wants to see such marks throughout his county.

"People see it every day, and it's kind of instilled into their minds," Lacy said.

As for hurricane shelters, Hancock County is the only coastal county with just one shelter. Harrison and Jackson counties have at least one pet friendly shelter.  Hancock County does not allow pets.

The three coastal EMA directors say their counties are still waiting on state money to build new shelters, which they hope will be ready by next hurricane season.

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