FEMA Opens Harrison County Disaster Centers - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/16/05

FEMA Opens Harrison County Disaster Centers

Despite a barrage of criticism for its storm response, especially early on, there was a definite bright spot for FEMA on Friday.

The two disaster assistance centers finally opening in Harrison County were certainly welcome. And the expected long lines and frustrated applicants, did not appear.

"Come on in. No line. Can you believe that?," said FEMA's Gene Romano, as he directed a couple toward the front door.

That was hard to believe. Late morning found disaster assistance with virtually no waiting at the Donal Snyder Community Center. Inside, FEMA representatives took application information and answered all sorts of questions.

"It's an opportunity to sit down and talk face to face with a recovery specialist. To find out about the process. To find out about different programs," said Romano.

"The center's primary mission is to go ahead and assist people with applications. We realize that many folks along the Gulf Coast still do not have phone service and certainly don't have access to the Internet," he added.

Latonya Lowe had a good experience at the center.

"They've been really nice and very patient. It's been good from what I've been seeing. It's been very good. They've actually been pushing us on in, and getting us out of there," she said happily.

By early afternoon Friday, about 50 people waited in line outside the Gulfport disaster center. Tents and bottled water helped make the hour long wait a little more comfortable.

More than 200 people had visited the 23rd Avenue Location by midday.

"It went wonderfully. It went wonderfully. I'm impressed by their organization," said Geri Davis, who came to apply at the Biloxi center on behalf of her mother, who lost her home.

The wait was short and the information helpful.

"I give them two thumbs up. Yes. Very satisfied," said Davis.

Given the harsh criticism the agency endured just after Katrina hit, FEMA officials no doubt appreciated the rave reviews.

The FEMA centers are open seven days a week from 8AM until 6PM.

By Steve Phillips

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