Interim Head Oversees Coast Hurricane Preparations

When John Edwards lived in New Jersey back in the 1990s, he knew three things about hurricanes.

"The wind and the rain and evacuations," he said.

Edwards is now Harrison County's interim director of emergency management. For the next few weeks, he's responsible for a whole new list of hurricane concerns.

"I just want to make sure that we have proper coordination with all the different agencies and entities that require it," he said. "I'm confident that we do."

Better coordination will be a focal point of the 2005 hurricane season. So how can the interim director and his staff do that? For starters, they can count on technology to help out.

Harrison County recently received a $25,000 grant, so every agency in the EOC is linked to a computer terminal just like this one.

Edwards said because of the new computers, "There will be a little less noise, a little less confusion."

Right now, there is no confusion. Harrison County's emergency operations center is quiet. For now, there isn't a storm on radar screens.

"We'll be ready for it if there is," said Edwards.

Harrison County will be ready because of a very experienced civil defense staff, and some operating modifications by the interim director.

"If we have to activate the EOC, that's my goal, to cut down the noise and cut down the traffic," he said.

Harrison County supervisors could consolidate the civil defense office with homeland security, and county fire services. A proposal is being put together to see if consolidating services makes sense.

On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane predictions for 2005.

Scientists think 12-15 tropical storms will form in the Atlantic. Seven to nine of those storms will become hurricanes. Three to five of those storms will be considered major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph.