Emergency officials urge residents to prepare for storm season

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Despite predictions of a below average hurricane season, emergency managers are urging the public to keep their guard up. MEMA Director Robert Latham held a hurricane preparedness news conference in Biloxi on Thursday.

"I think it's important to understand that the government is as ready as we can possibly be. It's up to citizens to do what they need to do and take responsibility for them, their families and their neighbors," said Latham.

He says people need to heed the warnings about an approaching storm, especially if local emergency managers are ordering evacuations.

"If we put out an evacuation, heed it. Don't hesitate, evacuate is what we always say. If we put it out there, we're not putting it out for ourselves. We're putting it out for their safety," said Hancock County Emergency Manager Brian Adam.

"Know where you live. Be prepared. Be ready to react once local officials tell you that message," said Rupert Lacy, the Harrison County Emergency Manager.

Ken Graham is Chief Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Slidell. He says the new emphasis on storm surge models and predictions will be a real game changer.

"We are really trying to shift away from cat one equals this, cat two equals that. It's all about the impacts, and everything we're doing is gearing people toward those impacts on the ground because that's what counts. The Saphir-Simpson scale is wind. It ignores rain, tornadoes, storm surge," Graham explained.

For the first time since the war on terrorism, Mississippi's National Guard will have the vast majority of its troops and equipment ready to respond if a storm strikes.

"That includes over 7,700 troops available at any given time, 900 humvees, 600 high mobility trucks that we used during Hurricane Isaac for the flood evacuations," said Lee Smithson, with the Mississippi National Guard.

Latham says make sure you have hurricane supplies on hand and have a plan in place for you and your family.

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