Jackson County residents concerned about their hurricane evacuation plan have another option.
The County and State have teamed up to provide a free bus service that will take residents to a safe hurricane shelter if an evacuation is order. To sign up for this service, residents should call the State's toll free registration phone line at 1-866-477-7099.
"We don't want anyone left behind because they don't have a ride," Butch Loper, Jackson County's Emergency Operations Manager explains.
"I'm encouraging any residents who might need this assistance to call now and pre-register. We need to know how many people want this assistance as early as possible."
The bus service will pick up registered residents at their home in a local school bus. From there, residents will be transported to a Red Cross shelter in the central part of the state. The bus and driver will stay with evacuees until its safe to return to the Coast.
Mississippi Emergency Management Director Mike Womack urges all Jackson County residents to make their evacuation plans now.
"One of the top concerns is the estimated 9,000 Jackson County residents still living in FEMA provided travel trailers. This bus service guarantees they have a way to evacuate. Residents who need this help should call 1-866-477-7090 and register," said Womack.
The toll-free line will be open 24 hours a day with live operators during business hours and an answering machine after hours. If a resident leaves a message overnight or on the weekend, a MEMA representative will return your call the following business day.
The bus routes will start before tropical storm force winds arrive on the Coast.
Residents must pack only the essentials for staying in a shelter (please review Red Cross Shelter guidelines.) There will be a two bag limit for each bus rider.
Small to medium size domesticated pets (cats, dogs, gerbils) will be allowed to ride on the free bus service. Pets must be inside an approved travel container before boarding the bus.
All pets will be taken to a certified animal shelter staffed by state personnel. Owners can't stay with their pets at the animal shelter but will be at a nearby location. No exotic animals (snakes, monkeys, etc.) will be allowed.
Each of the Coastal counties has a special phone number to register for this free evacuation service during business hours. Harrison County residents should call 1-228-896-8080 and in Hancock County call 1-228-466-8200.
The Jackson and George County chapter of the American Red Cross is also pre-registering local residents for the free bus service and a "Special Needs Shelter" by calling 228-712-2333.
The "Special Needs" shelter is only for residents who have medical conditions that require constant treatment (such as oxygen-dependent) but not hospitalization.