Officials: Stay home; don’t drive

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 1, 2005

Area emergency management officials’ message to citizens todaywas to “Stay home.”

“If you don’t have to go, don’t go,” said Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey during a morningmeeting area leaders.

Officials voiced concerns about sightseers traveling throughstorm-damaged areas. They said the motorists were getting in theway of storm recovery efforts for clean up crews as well as utilityoperations.

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“It’s impeding every bit of our work,” said Kenny Goza, Entergycustomer accounts manager.

Galey said the focus has been on getting diesel and gasoline foremergency vehicles. He said diesel is available for those vehicles,but he indicated gasoline was limited.

For the general public, Galey did not have an answer.

“People need to conserve as much as possible,” Galey said. “Thisstorm hit not only a major part of southern Mississippi, but a lotof production and distribution points.”

During today’s briefing, officials again discussed thepossibility of a curfew but opted against it.

Instead, officials agreed to strongly encourage gas stations tolimit customers to no more than 20 gallons. Customers should alsoprepay, they said.

Regarding schools, Galey said he would be taking with officialslater this week about plans. Classes had been expected to resumeTuesday, but Galey indicated that may not happen.

Galey said a truckload of ice and water has been ordered eachday.

“It’s been a commodity about as hard to get as gasoline,” Galeysaid.

The director said sites in the city and county have beenpredetermined for distribution. However, he did not release thosethis morning.

“We don’t exactly know where it’s going to be until we do it,”Galey said.

In Wesson, Mayor Alton Shaw said a water hose next to the policedepartment is available for public use. Those needing large amountsof water may be directed to the fire department in town, hesaid.

Galey said some Lincoln County roads and Brookhaven streets werestill blocked.

“Most of them are open except for where we have downed treeswith power lines in them,” Galey said.

Goza said about 20 percent of Entergy’s 12,000 Brookhaven areacustomers were back with power. He said more than 300 employeeswere in the area today and focusing on residential areas.

“We’re going to make good progress today,” Goza said duringtoday’s meeting. “We’re working as hard as we can as fast as wecan.”

According to a faxed statement from Magnolia EPA, GeneralManager Darrell Smith said power to nine of 13 substations had beenrestored. He encouraged members, though, to prepare for theworst.

“We will restore power as quickly and safely as we possibly can,but it will take some time,” Smith said.

Smith said members can report outages by calling (601) 684-4011.It is not necessary to continue to call once an outage has beenreported.

Galey did not have information this morning on Southwest EPA’ssituation.

Galey stressed the importance of utility vehicles also havingaccess to fuel.

“If they can’t get the fuel, they can’t get the power back on,”he said.

Galey discouraged officials from trying to haul off debris. Hementioned the possibility of a contract with FEMA for thatservice.

“We can’t pick up now,” said Mayor Bob Massengill. “We don’thave the manpower to pick it up.”

Officials said debris should be piled up in yards at the edge ofstreets.

Lincoln County has not been declared a disaster area, Galeysaid.

Galey said an assessment, done by the American Red Cross, isneeded but that organization is focusing on taking care of morethan 1,000 shelter residents in the county. He was hopeful theassessment could start today and was confident a disasterdeclaration would be made.

“I think it’s a done deal. It’s just a matter of getting thepeople in here to do (the assessment),” Galey said.

Once a disaster is declared, information about assistance willbe distributed throughout the area in a wide variety of means.

Regarding shelter residents, Galey said there are more than2,000 in the Lincoln, Lawrence and Pike county area.

Currently, Lincoln County residents are staying at areachurches, with the possibility of more facilities having to beopened. Galey planned to talk with other officials about futurehousing needs.

“We’re going to have to find a place to put them for a longtime,” Galey said.

For anyone wishing to help, Galey said the best way is to make afinancial contribution to the local American Red Cross chapter.Residents may contact them at (601) 833-2771.