National Guard prepares for hurricane season

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When a hurricane makes its way to the coast, many people evacuate. But not National Guard units. In fact, when hurricanes strike, units from the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard come to the coast to provide support for the Emergency Management Agency.

Saturday, hundreds gathered at 890th Engineer Battalion Army National Guard Readiness Center to participate in the annual hurricane preparation exercise. This program, called HURREX, brought together leaders of the Air National Guard and Army came from Meridian, Jackson, Tupelo, and across Mississippi.

As one team, they rehearsed their plans for Hurricane Season 2013.

"Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it's not if a hurricane is going to hit, it's when the hurricane is going to hit," said Adjutant General Augustus Collins.

"It's called a HURREX drill where we plan all the moving parts and pieces of what the Mississippi National Guard will do to respond to a natural disaster," said Air National Guard Chief of Staff Chris Chrisler.

This annual two day training program reviews things like how there can't be contraflow on Highway 49. Safety is key and their role when a hurricane strikes.

"This is one of the core competencies of the Mississippi National Guard, both Air and Army. So, it fits right up there with our wartime mission," said Chrisler.

Adjutant General Collins said the best way to prepare is by studying the past.

"We're doing a hurricane scenario from Hurricane Elena, from 1985. And then this afternoon we're going to work a scenario where we actually go back through Hurricane Katrina," said Adjutant General Collins.

These men and women said history has taught them to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

"Hope we don't have any large storms, but we do have a plan in place in case that does happen," said Director of the Combat Readiness Training Center Billy Murphy.

"That's why I think we're probably one of the best states in the country to respond to a hurricane," said General Chrisler.

They practiced drills in response to category 2 hurricanes or higher. The program ends Sunday morning. Hurricane season begins June 1st.

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