Black Spring Break 2001 is officially over, and police say they are pleased with the way the weekend went, especially with the traffic flow. Gulfport Chief Wayne Payne says the traffic was heavy at times during the three-day period, but officers were able to manage it. He calls the traffic plan a success.
Chief Payne says the key was keeping the cars moving to prevent the gridlock that gripped the Coast last year. At times, officers had to divert drivers from Highway 90 to I-10 and close off certain exits on the interstate. That caught many local residents off guard. The drivers criticized the officers for not warning them in advance.
Chief Payne says they didn't know how many people were coming to the party, and they didn't know whether they were going to have to do a diversion. Biloxi Chief Tommy Moffett says they didn't know where the people were going to be, so the officers had to respond accordingly.
Chief Moffett says local residents were told there would be contingency plans in case traffic gets too heavy on Highway 90. Officials considered where the visitors would actually show up and tried to prepare for that, so it wasn't feasible to announce every single detail of the plan to the public.
Many spring breakers also complained about their cars being towed and the strong police presence over the weekend. Chief Moffett says he is in the business of providing public safety and he feels the officers did a good job. Chief Payne says some of the students he talked to enjoyed the event and thanked the officers for being there and making them feel safe.
Officers also praised weekend traffic plans that kept emergency lanes opened. The inner lanes of Highway 90 were reserved for emergency vehicles only. American Medical Response officials say they received 35-calls that were directly related to the Spring Break event. AMR officials say crews were able to respond to those medical calls on average in less then 6 minutes. Last year, they experienced delays in getting to calls because of the jammed roads.
Biloxi firefighters also credit the emergency lanes for providing them easy access to a fire. The fire broke out at a business on Beauvoir Road Friday night, as Spring Break activities were kicking off.