GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On the eve of the 2009 hurricane season, leaders at the Port of Gulfport spent Friday reviewing their storm plans.
Port administrators have vowed that what happened in 2005 will never happen again. They reminded their tenants that the port must be emptied before the next storm approaches the area.
Dale Waltman spent Friday morning counting the containers sitting at the port. His tally reached almost 2,000. And that didn't include the construction equipment around the port facility.
"So if we're in that cone of uncertainty today it's going to take us awhile to get that cargo off the port," he told port tenants at their annual meeting.
Once a year, port leaders get together with shipping companies and with the law enforcement community. These discussions make everybody more aware of their responsibilities before, during and after a hurricane.
Don Allee is the port's executive director.
"If there is a great idea out there that we haven't entertained yet, don't hesitate to bring it up," he told the group.
In 2005, several containers remained on the port's facility as Katrina approached. But they weren't here very long. They ended up strewn across west Gulfport, littering properties with unwanted debris.
So, when Gustav was in the gulf last year, the port implemented a new "evacuate everything" plan. And the port's director said the plan worked.
"Let me just always ensure the public, were are constantly trying to improve on a plan," said Allee. "I think we tested our plan to the maximum last year when we evacuated the entire port of equipment prior to Gustav."
If another hurricane threatens the Mississippi coast in 2009, Allee says the Port of Gulfport will once again put its evacuation plan into action.
"We thought we could completely evacuate the port within 48 hours. We were able to demonstrate that that's possible. And we'll use that technique again if the situation calls for it," he said.
Friday's meeting included representatives from the Port of Gulfport's shipping tenants, plus the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, Gulfport police, longshoremen, and the port's tugboat captains