Coast EMA directors: Prepare now for hurricane season

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Now that hurricane season is officially here, we asked all three Emergency Management Agency directors on the coast to join us at our WLOX studio to talk about the 2011 season. It is their job to make sure their counties are prepared. They also want to make sure that you are prepared.

"The advice is, think about it, have a plan, talk the plan over with your family members," Harrison County's Rupert Lacy said.

It's the same advice we hear every year. Most people pay attention and act on that advice, but some don't.

"Yes, it is frustrating," Jackson County's Donald Langham said. "I normally spend a lot of my time in June, giving talks to various groups about being ready for whatever comes our way."

When a storm threatens, the emergency evacuation shelters open. Fortunately, all three coastal counties are in better shape in that regard, than ever before.

"Within a couple of weeks, we will have three of our four shelters on line. And that is really a good thing, because we have only had one shelter over the past number of years," Hancock County's Brian Adam said.

In Jackson County, three new FEMA shelters will go open next year. But for 2011, the new St. Martin High school will serve as a large shelter. Donald Langham said it is built to very high standards.

"It can withstand 200 mile per hour winds. And it is a large building, so it should be able to handle a lot of people, if we have to."

Harrison County will have three shelters coming on board this year, and Rupert Lacy said some of the current shelters will be improved from years past.

"We have worked on some mitigation efforts to make some of our older shelters a bit more pleasurable," Lacy said.

Once again this year, the people of South Mississippians will hope for the best this season, but  prepare for the worst. As we learned in Katrina, all it takes is one storm to make it a devastating year.

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