Hurricane’s influence felt throughout community

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 28, 2006


Whether physical in form or emotional in nature, lines dominatedthe hours and days leading up to and after Hurricane Katrina roaredthrough Mississippi on Aug. 29, 2005.

During that time, evacuees formed lines of traffic in search ofrefuge, citizens without electricity hoped for power lines to berestored and many people waited in lines for food, water and ice,gasoline and generators. Also throughout that ordeal, lines ofsympathy were extended to the families of two popular teenagers whodied in an Aug. 27 automobile accident.

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The first lines to be influenced by the hurricane were lines ofcommunications, as weather watchers kept emergency personnelinformed on the storm’s projected path and they in turn relayed thebest information they could to local officials and the public atlarge. Few could say with any certainty what line Katrina wouldtake as she passed through the state.

After getting the message to evacuate, lines of vehiclescarrying coastal Mississippi and Louisiana residents soon floodedthe interstate.

Interstate 55 was contra flowed, in which all four lanes wereset up to carry traffic north, the Saturday before the storm. Withthe contra flow ending just north of Bogue Chitto, lines of carsmade their way to shelters that had been set up in Brookhaven andlater in the county.

Once Katrina arrived, power lines fell quickly and LincolnCounty residents and thousands of others lost electricity. Despitelines of utility workers and vehicles pouring into the area,repairs went slowly and some in remote areas would be left in thedark for several weeks after the storm.

As all-encompassing as Katrina was, that storyline was stillsecondary for the families and friends of Jacob Dunn, 16, andHunter Rester, 15, who had died in Saturday night accident on NewSight Road.

“We went through the hurricane on the floor of the bedroomsorting out pictures for the services,” said Jacob’s fatherDavid.

The effects of the hurricane, though, caused those services tobe delayed for several days. With power out, uncertainty surroundedwhen and how funeral services would be held.

“The mornings were the hardest,” David Dunn said about theuncertainty.

Suzanne Rester, Hunter’s mother, also recalled the difficulttimes.

“We held his wake by candlelight and had to hook up thegenerator from my parents’ mobile home to have electricity for thefellowship hall,” she said about visitation.

Fortunately, electricity was restored to Macedonia BaptistChurch minutes before his Wednesday, Aug. 31, funeral service.

Calling their son a “perfectionist,” David and Sondra Dunn saidthey received peace of mind by waiting until the following Saturdayand having electricity for Jacob’s services.

Sondra Dunn expressed appreciation for the church and communitysupport the families received immediately after and since theaccident.

As Katrina’s rains still fell on Brookhaven on Aug. 29, lines ofpeople in need of supplies began forming. People in a short linewaited outside the Walgreens that day to be escorted through thestore and to pay cash for whatever they bought.

In the days that followed, lines would become longer and morefrequent as people waited for generators for their homes andgasoline for their vehicles.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Debra Cormier, ownerof a local gas station, as she assisted another in a long line ofcustomers.

Lines of people seeking help – either in the form of food, waterand ice or financial assistance through the Red Cross or thegovernment – also became easily evident.

Either because of limited supplies or operational efficiency,some lines moved quickly. Others, however, were frustratingly slowuntil more efficiency could be installed.

Thousands of people lined up around the Multi-Use Facility inhopes of signing up for Red Cross vouchers, which only numbered inthe hundreds on any given day. Later, after a night of hightension, an assistance ticket distribution system was set up at thesports complex and lines of people became a line of vehiclescircling the softball fields.

With the Katrina storyline becoming people and communities inneed, sister communities from across the country sent help toBrookhaven and Southwest Mississippi.

Another line to be influenced by Katrina is the community’s lineof defense and preparation.

While talking about the storm recently, Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said no one wasprepared for a hurricane the magnitude of Katrina. Now, he isleading efforts to improve the community’s emergency response plansand is encouraging citizens to make adjustments to their own plansshould another Katrina come.

“I hope that individuals who did have a plan in place adjustedtheirs based on what happened during Katrina and those who didn’thave a plan now have one in place,” Galey said.