Good preparation helps area weather Gustav

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 8, 2008

Perhaps it was its smaller size or perhaps it was simply betterpreparation by all involved, but Hurricane Gustav was far less of amedia event than was Hurricane Katrina a mere three years ago.

It was likely a combination of factors that allowed Mississippiand Louisiana to weather this latest storm in better fashion.

With Gustav still churning in the Gulf and its path uncertain,Louisiana officials put the word out that residents should leaveand that those who may choose to stay would be on their own, asthere would be no shelter from the coming storm.

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Unlike the poor evacuation implementation for Hurricane Katrina,these actions left no chance for thousands of residents to be leftbehind to be haphazardly shuffled into the Superdome as a “shelterof last resort.” This year’s expedient evacuations also rid thecity of the suffering that was so prominently on display due to theflooding following Katrina.

Once on the road, evacuees encountered heavy traffic but anotherwise relatively smooth journey north on contraflowedinterstates.

In Mississippi, several school districts contributed buses in awell-organized effort to bring coastal residents to Jackson.National Guard units were also dispatched to the coast to encouragepeople to leave.

Many Louisiana residents traveled north on Interstate 55 intothe Magnolia State to get out of the storm’s way. Several hundredevacuees found respite here in Brookhaven thanks to churches thatopened as Red Cross shelters.

Unfortunately the evacuation and planning in New Orleans and theMississippi Gulf Coast was not followed through here. Anunfortunate series of events involving the local Red Cross leftshelters in Lincoln and Pike counties without necessary bedding,food and medical supplies for the evacuees staying in areashelters.

Throughout the difficulties, though, church members and somefrom other congregations stepped up to the plate to do everythingthey could to make evacuees feel welcome and comfortable. For somechurches, taking care of storm evacuees has become old hat – andtheir proper preparations and response prove their familiarity withthe drill.

On the local front, civil defense, emergency medical services,volunteer firefighters, city and county crews, utility providersand others were well-positioned to go into action as soon aspossible to try and get this area back on the path to normalcy.Some lingering electricity and other issues remained late lastweek, but this area is well on its way to putting Gustav in therearview mirror.

For their efforts, emergency and other storm responders deserveour gratitude and appreciation.

While nobody ever wants a hurricane to come knocking on theirdoor, Hurricane Gustav illustrated that thorough planning,preparation and response go a long way toward making the unwelcomevisitor’s stay a little less uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike could require us to do this allover again later this week!