Hurricane Exercise Points Out Potential Problems

Mississippi emergency officials are watching Hurricane Zora swirling in the gulf, headed straight towards South Mississippi.

"Maximum sustained winds are 125 miles an hour. It's a category 3 hurricane," a voice echoed through a speaker phone.

It's not real this time, but to Jackson County Emergency Management Director Butch Loper, the simulation is not a game.

"It's a way to show where, I feel, the weaknesses are, and to ensure those don't occur in a real time case," Loper says.

Teamed up with representatives from FEMA and MEMA, the group uses conference calls to brief county agencies throughout Mississippi.

The internet was supposed to be their primary source of communication in this exercise, but just a few hours in, that resource was gone.

"Oh yes, we had a train derail and hit a telephone pole and knock out some of the equipment and the internet connection," Loper says.

The closer the mock storm moved in, the more problems surfaced, like press releases sent out with incorrect information.

"Exactly issues we have had in the past, so they have not corrected anything. You can write a perfect scenario if you're in a perfect situation, but disasters aren't a perfect situation," Loper says.

During a real disaster, Loper says the emergency operations center would also be full, with phones ringing and people moving in and out to hear the latest updates.

This meteorologists have predicted 17 named storms. But Loper says it only takes one to make a scenario like this come true.

Loper hopes MEMA can use this experiment to work out the problems, since we're now less than a month away from the start of hurricane season.

"If they don't take the information and learn from it, it's no good at all. That's yet to be seen,"

Here's a few suggestions Butch Loper has for everyone on the Coast as we prepare for Hurricane Season together:

  • Make sure your hurricane kits are updated.
  • Rotate canned goods out, so you have fresh ones available.
  • Have your evacuation plan ready.
  • Prepare any medications or prescriptions you might need.
  • Make arrangements for your pets or locate the nearest pet-friendly shelter.

You can also learn more from MEMA's website,