Report Concentrates On Hurricane Evacuations

Gen. Joe Spraggins stood in his Civil Defense office and shook his head.

"It's amazing we're four months from another hurricane season," he said.

That only gives Harrison County's Civil Defense Director four months to map out an evacuation strategy that takes into account all the Katrina variables plaguing south Mississippi.

"The biggest thing is going to be how many people evacuate now compared to what evacuated in 05, due to FEMA trailers, due to the conditions they're living in now," Spraggins said.

One man dealing with those conditions is Scott Oliver. Katrina destroyed his west Gulfport home. So while a new one is being built, he lives in one of those trailers.

"We're not going to stay if there's another storm," Oliver said. "Not in the trailer anyway. We'll be gone."

Laura Thibodeaux will also be gone. But she's not coming back. Katrina's fury was so unforgiving, Thibodeaux and her husband decided to move out of state.

As she looked at the Gulfport property that was her home for 25 years, she said, "I'm a retired nurse. And I've seen enough destruction and death in my life. And that's what this reminds me of, a death."

In August, Thibodeaux was just like thousands of other south Mississippians. She packed up a few things and evacuated to Arkansas. The ride was long and nerve racking. Roads were jammed. Traffic crawled up major arteries.

"It was pretty bad," Thibodeaux remembered. "I don't think a lot of people took it seriously until Sunday, when it had become a category five."

To ease evacuation congestion on northbound Highway 49 or on I-10 in the future, Gen. Spraggins may issue a get out of town order even sooner than he did last year.

"We may have to go to 72 hours instead of 48 hours," he said.

Spraggins thinks the extra time will give 2005's hurricane victims a better chance to safely evacuate the area in 2006.