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Reeves praises the state’s response to Hurricane Ida, says Mississippi not out of the woods yet

Gov. Tate Reeves and other emergency officials discuss Hurricane Ida.
Gov. Tate Reeves and other emergency officials discuss Hurricane Ida.(State of Mississippi)
Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 12:47 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Gov. Tate Reeves touted the state’s response to Hurricane Ida but said Mississippians were still not out of the woods Monday as the storm still worked its way through the state.

“The biggest risk, as we go into the evening... the eye of the storm is north/northwest of Jackson, about 25 miles,” he said. “It’s still packing a lot of rainfall... Rising water on the roads, as well as the potential for trees falling across roads, as well as trees falling across power lines, is still a risk that needs to be considered. “If you’re north of Jackson, try to stay home tonight if you can.

“The other major risks are those outer bands. It’s easy for us on the coastline to think that the hurricane has passed, but those lower bands are still whipping, and we could still see some high winds and tornadic activity flow out of those bands.”

Ida slammed into the Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 storm Sunday. The storm weakened significantly as it crossed into the state, but still brought down trees and power lines, blocking numerous roads and leaving tens of thousands of people without power.

Power was quickly being restored for many Mississippians, though. At the height of outages Monday, more than 144,000 were without power, a number that had been cut to around 85,000 around 5 p.m., said Stephen McCraney, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

“We’ve made great progress out there today,” he said.

Reeves was joined by officials with the MEMA, the Mississippi National Guard, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

Officials discussed efforts to prepare for the storm as well as the response to it. Monday, some 20 water rescues were made in Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison County. Additionally, some 600 people used the 28 emergency shelters that were opened at the peak of the storm.

As of Monday, about 19 shelters remain open, with varying numbers of people using them, Reeves said.

Meanwhile, with the sun setting damage reports are beginning to trickle in. “(We’ve gotten them) from eight counties so far,” Reeves said. “Damage assessments are relatively light - very light considering the magnitude of the storm. There are no unmet needs at this time.”

McCraney said MEMA would be turning on its self-reporting tool at msema.org, which allows Mississippians to self-report storm damage. The agency also is going to set up a resources tab via its website to provide information to residents who need additional information.

Jim Craig, senior deputy with MSDH, gave an update on how the storm had impacted healthcare and water.

He said four nursing homes were currently operating on generators, while two others had reported minor damage. Damage was also reported at two intermediate care facilities, while two others were running off of generators. Intermediate care facilities serve individuals with intellectual disorders.

Additionally, two personal care/assisted living facilities were temporarily closed, with 55 people having to be relocated. Another three personal care facilities were operating on generators, Craig said.

MSDH, which also regulates public water systems, said 318 of the 394 public systems in the state were fully operational. Four boil water notices had to be issued.

Craig also discussed COVID-19 testing and vaccination availability. County health departments and testing sites in the central and southern parts of the state are closed Tuesday. Vaccines will still be available at centers in Carroll, Desoto, Lee, Prentiss, Tallahatchie, and Yalobusha counties. Testing will still be available at sites in Desoto, Pontotoc, Lee, Tunica, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun counties.

Craig urged people to exercise caution in the coming days, especially when operating generators and removing debris.

He said if you don’t know how to operate a chainsaw, “today might not be the best day to start practice” adding that injuries would put additional stress on a hospital system already overburdened by COVID.

Monday evening, just nine ICU beds were available in the state, while 102 people were being held in Mississippi emergency rooms.

As for generators, MEMA officials tell residents not to operate them indoors and to not refuel them while they’re running.

“Storms can be in the after-the-storm components,” Craig said. “Generators (release) carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is something you can’t see, smell, or taste. Don’t operate near the window (or) in the home. Make sure they’re out and away from the building.

“If you start having a headache, your skin color (starts) turning red - carbon monoxide is present.”

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