Officials Urge Early Evacuations For Next Hurricane

"It always scares me when people say, 'We got lucky last year, maybe I'll wait it out this year," Butch Loper says.

Loper says waiting is the worst thing South Mississippians can do. He begins his second hurricane season as Jackson County's Civil Defense Director with the experience of Hurricane Ivan fresh in his mind.

"That afternoon it didn't look good. Even though they said it was going to turn, it hadn't turned. It looked like we were going to take a direct hit. We learned from last year, if you wait till the last minute to evacuate, you end up in major jams."

The last 24 hours before Ivan hit land turned into a nightmare for South Mississippians who waited to pack their bags and head north. Anyone who got on Highway 49 experienced the mess firsthand.

Though state emergency officials are making adjustments to prevent that, Loper says the best advice is to leave 36 to 48 hours earlier.

"Yeah, it may cost you an extra night in a hotel or another night away from home, but you'll get there a lot faster, a lot safer, you won't be in stop and go traffic. You won't risk your car overheating or burning more fuel. It'll save you money in the long run."

Loper says it's better to spend the extra money and get out, than to stay and wish you had evacuated.

"I know sometimes it comes down to financial reasons. But if it comes the choice between money or life, I'm going to have to choose life everytime."