Contraflow did work, but issues need ironing

Published 2:05 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

While contraflow was found to have a number of issues that need addressing it did work and county officials will strive to make it work better.

Pearl River County Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said that the county is committed to providing the needs of people evacuating from surrounding areas during emergencies.

A preliminary meeting with Mississippi Department of Transportation addressed the need for more law enforcement officers to help the county better handle the increased traffic contraflow brings. Manley said he initially thought that Pearl River County was a bad place to bottleneck the contraflow. However, he said that Hattiesburg also has problems with multiple thoroughfares that lead to the municipality. He said his objective is not to create more problems for Hattiesburg.

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“Contraflow is what it is and we’re committed to making it work,” Manley said. “We’re not going to sit back and complain that we are not getting help. We want to move forward and get a program in place to deal with it.”

Effectively implementing contraflow will help build favorable relationships with surrounding areas such as Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Those relationships can position the county for increased economic activity.

A list has been established to cater to contraflow needs. Those needs include the construction of additional restroom facilities, which could be addressed with temporary or permanent additions to county rest stops, Manley said. Communication, training and some assistance with shelters also is needed to better cater to the needs of motorists who part of the contraflow evacuation.

The need to share information about the available services in our county to those passing through could be met with cooperation from local and surrounding radio stations. Those stations could alert motorists to the availability, or lack of, fuel and services, Manley said.

To help with traffic, Manley said that portable traffic lights could be used.

Other needs could be met with additional personnel from Louisiana, Mississippi and thefederal government to help the county to achieve efficient contraflow implementation.

Working with the private sector will not only help people evacuate, but will also help evacuees return home to begin getting their homes back in order. If returning evacuees need fuel or other services, then the county needs to be able to meet those needs, Manley said.

In the past, dealings with contraflow have been negative, but Manley said he is willing to work to deal with the needs of evacuees.

Overall, the contraflow evacuation that took place before Hurricane Gustav worked. There were no reported injuries and the county had fuel at all times but work to enhance contraflow will help provide necessary services to the thousands of people who may take part in a contraflow evacuation.

A number of agencies did send help and Manley said he appreciates their time and effort. Those agencies included Desoto County Sheriff’s Department, Ponotoc County Sheriff and Police Departments, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Meridian Police Department, New Albany law enforcement, Mississippi Law Enforcement Liaison Office, Rankin County Sheriff’s Department and Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department.