Hurricane preperations are underway for Gustav

Published 6:26 pm Friday, August 29, 2008

Preparation will be key as Gustav if theads for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Pearl River County and its cities are preparing their generators to keep water, sewer and emergency communications services going. Residents should be prepared to provide themselves with water food and medication for at least seven days.

Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown said generators are being fueled and set up to keep emergency water and sewer services going, along with key buildings in the city. Sand bags are also being filled to make sure they will be able to meet the demand.

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Shelters are getting ready to take in local residents who may need a safe place to stay. Manna Ministries on Martin Luther King Boulevard is getting ready to take people in. It is scheduled to open at 2 p.m. Sunday if its needed, Brown said. A release from the Pearl River County Emergency Management office also lists the First Baptist Church, at 401 Goodyear Blvd., as a shelters Poplarville Mayor Billy Spiers said there will be only one shelter site in the immediate Poplarville area, the First Baptist Church at 203 South Main Street, but other churches could be made available if needed.

All three shelters are set to open at 2 p.m., Sunday, subject to what occurs with Hurricane Gustav. The phone numbers to call after 2 p.m. on Sunday for information are: 601-795-4531 for the Poplarville shelter; 601-798-4886, Picayune First Baptist; and 601-799-2121, Manna Ministries.

Brown warns people from other areas that Pearl River County is not far enough inland to be safe. Their best bet would be to move farther north to get out of harm’s way. There is still the possibility of danger of high winds, isolated flooding and tornadoes in this county.

Residents set on staying should have enough supplies to last seven days. Food, water, medication and baby supplies should be securedpeople will need at least 24 to 36 hours after a hurricane watch is issued to prepare for the storm.

Generators hooked up to homes will need to be hooked up correctly to avoid injuring power line workers restoring power if electricity is lost, Brown said.

No matter whether a person plans to stay or go, they should contact other family members to let them know what those plans are and where they will be. This will allow the Fire Department to focus on emergencies rather than fielding phone calls from concerned family members.

Those who leave should bring important paper work with them and catalog personal belongings left behind.

As of Friday morning, Gustav was classified as a high level tropical storm and expected to increase intensity to a category three hurricane. Manley said that predictions of the path should be taken with a grain of salt but it is best to prepare.

“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Manley said “There’s a good chance it could move off and not affect us. But it could turn and come straight at us.”

“We can either be scared or we can be prepared,” said Picayune Police Chief Jim Luke.

Spiers, fresh from a meeting with county emergency officials and his own department heads, said late Thursday morning that city preparations were underway.

Regarding contra-flow — using all four lanes of Interstate 59 as an evacuation route for northbound traffic — Spiers said the city has been told if that plan is initiated, it would come as far the Millard area crossover. Reports from Louisiana say that a decision to use or not use contra-flow out of that state would probably be made Saturday.

Spiers said right now it was a wait-and-see time as to what measures would be needed in that regard.

The city will have an emergency command center set up in the Technology Center in the event of an impact from Gustav, Spiers said. During Hurricane Katrinam, city hall had served that purpose. The county EOC will be located at its site on Mississippi Highway 26 East in Poplarville. Picayune will set up a command center at City Hall.

Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt said the schools were in the process of “battening down” their campuses in the event of the storm’s approach. Part of that process was preparing the school’s emergency phone tree for contacting personnel.

He said they were waiting on word from the county EOC before determining a final course of action. As of yet there has been no decision on possible closings but that such a decision might come over the weekend.

Formal word, when it is released, would be announced on radio stations Kicker 108 and WRPM as well as television stations WDAM in Hattiesburg and WLOX on the coast, Merritt said.

Friday activities, including the Hornet football game at West Jones, will go one as planned. Also, the Lady Hornets slow pitch softball game at Enterprise is still scheduled.