Complacent Coast Worries Emergency Teams As Storm Season Approaches - - The News for South Mississippi

Complacent Coast Worries Emergency Teams As Storm Season Approaches

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- On the eve of another hurricane season, complacency is threatening south Mississippi. So civil defense directors are sounding a pre-season alarm.

Harrison County Civil Defense Director Rupert Lacy doesn't have any facts to back up the feeling he has in the pit of his stomach. But, as he goes around the community, and meets with people about the 2008 hurricane season, he senses that there may be trouble on the horizon.

"Everybody asks are we prepared," Lacy noted as he stood in an empty emergency operations center.

He would like to say yes. After all, this is an area that's still dealing with the horrifying memories of Katrina. But without a single tropical storm threatening south Mississippi in two years, the Harrison County Civil Defense Director made a sobering realization.

"We've had lessons learned. But people are becoming complacent again. And that bothers me," he asserted.

So what can emergency management leaders do? Mike Womack's answer is to reach out to the people.

"Step right in," the MEMA director said while opening the door to his agency's mobile command center.

MEMA invited Edgewater Mall shoppers on board the van. The tours gave people a chance to see the equipment Mississippi uses to monitor a storm from the ground. It gave MEMA staff members a chance to reinforce hurricane safety issues.

"People need to take personal responsibility in their own preparedness," Womack said.

MEMA's director urged south Mississippians to check and restock disaster kits. Womack also said now was the perfect time to modify evacuation plans.

"They need to be thinking in terms of what's the threat to me. What's the threat to my home and my family. And then, what is my plan to address the threat," he said.

Local and state leaders have already tested their hurricane plans. So, they know their assignments the next time a storm threatens the coast. But Lacy said their plans can only work if you do your part now.

"Preparedness starts with each and everybody," the civil defense director emphasized. "And have five to seven days worth of supplies."

Those supplies include everything from canned food, to bottled water, to cash and medications.

Whatever you do get your family prepared, do it. Lacy said don't be complacent, because you never know when another Katrina will sweep across south Mississippi.

The hurricane season begins on Sunday. And predictions from analysts indicate that anywhere from 13 to 15 named storms will churn through the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf between June and November.

By Brad Kessie

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