Local officials, shelters stand ready to respond

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

As Hurricane Katrina veered northeast after coming ashore thismorning in southeast Louisiana, Lincoln County area emergencyresponse officials focused on plans for after the storm comesthrough.

“We hit it lucky in that the storm turned a little east,” saidCivil Defense Director Clifford Galey. “We’re not going to get asmuch of the storm as we thought last night.”

Still, Galey said weather forecasts indicated Lincoln County wasexpected to have sustained winds of 55 to 65 miles per hour andgusts of 75 to 85 miles per hour. Rainfall estimates ranged from 6to 10 inches.

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“That’s probably going to be sometimes between lunch and dark,”Galey said about wind conditions.

Galey said no damage had been reported this morning. However, aroof was reportedly blown off an Earl’s Trail mobile home around8:30 a.m.

Galey said the storm is still capable of producing major poweroutages from downed power lines, fallen trees and home damage.

“If we get that damage, we strongly urge people to stay home orwherever they may be,” Galey said.

Mayor Bob Massengill agreed.

“I’m hoping, when the weather starts getting bad, people willnot be out riding around,” Massengill said Sunday afternoon duringa meeting with local emergency officials.

During that meeting, city and county officials stronglyrecommended that people mobile homes and less-sturdy structure seekshelter elsewhere.

Schools were closed today and officials would be making adecision about Tuesday later today, Galey said. Several businesseswere also closed, and others were in the process of making theirdecisions.

The Government Complex was open this morning.

“It will be only essential services,” Galey said.

Galey said he is remaining in touch with local elected andemergency officials.

“Everything’s going smoothly so far,” Galey said. “We’reprepared as we can possibly be.”

Layla Edwards, director of the local American Red Cross chapter,said 603 people were in five shelters in Lincoln County, 329 atthree shelters in Pike County and 34 at one shelter in LawrenceCounty. Several shelters were on standby in the three counties.

“This is the most we’ve ever sheltered at one time,” Edwardssaid.

In Lincoln County, shelters at Faith Presbyterian, EasthavenBaptist and St. James Missionary Baptist Church were full.

Edwards said St. Paul M.B. Church was about half full and FirstBaptist Church, which can hold 150 people, had 20 people at 6 a.m.today. Central Baptist Church was on standby.

“We’re holding our most centrally located churches for our localpeople,” said Red Cross Volunteer Kim Carr during Sunday’smeeting.

Edwards said most of the food for the shelters had been donatedby local businesses. She said the shelters were in need of comfortkits, including personal hygiene items and toiletries, and cleanupkits.

“We are out,” said Edwards.

Edwards said anyone wanting to donate items may call (601)833-2771 for more information. She indicated the chapter office waspreparing for a long stay.

“We’ll be here as long as a shelter is open,” Edwards said.

Elsewhere, utility company employees were gearing up to respondwhere needed after the storm passes. They reported few problems sofar.

“Right now, we have no outages,” said Kenny Goza, Entergycustomer account manager. “We’re waiting for the worst.”

Goza said staging areas had been set up in Lincoln County. Hesaid tree crews, line personnel and others are preparing to respondto outages in storm-impacted areas.

Electric power association officials reported similarpreparations.

“We will restore power as soon as the storm passes and it issafe to begin work,” said Azalea Knight, spokeswoman for SouthwestEPA.

Lucy Shell, member services director for Magnolia EPA, saidextra crews were on standby, trucks were ready to roll andadditional resources were lined up if needed.

“We’re monitoring the situations and are prepared to respond toemergencies as needed.” Shell said.

Shell said extra staff is in place to respond to calls reportingpower outages. She advised members to have their accounts numbersready when they call.

Brookhaven businesses were busy Sunday as local residents andevacuees prepared for the storm’s approach.

“It’s been in spurts nonstop throughout the day,” said RobertSmith, Walgreen’s manager. “The pharmacy was overwhelmed.”

He said a number of out-of-town residents had used the pharmacyto fill prescriptions. Bread and water were selling outquickly.

“Hopefully, vendors will get here early (Monday) morning torestock us,” Smith said.

Gas stations on Brookway Boulevard also were busy Sunday. TheMarsh family, from Kenner, La., stopped at one convenience storefor gasoline and sandwiches.

The family left New Orleans around 10:30 a.m. and got toBrookhaven around 6 p.m.

“It took us two hours just to get to the interstate, which isone mile from our house,” said Judy Marsh. “After that, it wentpretty good.”

Chris Marsh said the family was heading to Memphis to stay withhis sisters.

“We hope we have a home when we get back,” Marsh said.

To accommodate evacuees, Interstate 55 was contraflowed from 4p.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday. Mississippi Highway Patrol StaffSgt. Rod Crawford said there were 11 accidents during that time,with only one resulting in minor injuries.

Galey said his office has been in a 24-hour operations modesince noon Saturday.

“We will be here for the duration of the incident,” Galeysaid.