County prepares for storm season

Published 3:06 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

Emergency personnel in Pearl River County are gearing up for this year’s storm season, which started on the first day of this month.

To prepare for the storms that may affect the county this season, representatives from a number of agencies met at the Pearl River County Emergency Management Office.

“Yes, we are going to have some tropical weather this year, at least that’s the consensus,” said EOC Communications Director David Moore.

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Moore said there is a weather system capable of producing a storm in the Gulf of Mexico as he spoke, while the system is not named and there is no definite path forecast, it is being watched. Moore said it might be another day or so before more can be forecast for the system. He said possible paths could lead it anywhere from Mexico to Mississippi. It is not expected to make landfall for at least another week, if at all, Moore said.

Hurricanes are unpredictable, and can develop anywhere from the coast of Africa to right in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said even a storm that develops in the Gulf could become a hurricane in just a few days.

To help warn residents of approaching severe weather, sirens were installed in various locations in the county about two years ago. Moore said the sirens will not sound unless there is severe weather in the immediate area. If the siren sounds, Manley suggests people take action to protect themselves. Moore said the sirens will not be activated unless a storm threat is close and real. A storm threat must consist of an obvious flood threat, winds in excess of 58 miles per hour and/or hail that is an inch or larger before the sirens will be activated.

“A one inch chunk of hail is a big ol’ chunk of hail,” Moore said.

The sirens are tested every other month, on the second Monday of every even numbered month at 2 p.m.

Outside of those scheduled tests, Manley suggests any resident who hears one of the sirens, which are mostly placed near schools throughout the county, to stop what he is doing and get indoors.

In preparation for tropical weather that may cause a large scale event during this year’s storm season,  Manley gave those in attendance a couple of scenarios emergency personnel dealt with during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The situations dealt with closures of pharmacies, banks, retail stores, gas stations, the Health Department, welfare office, WIC and dialysis treatment centers. In the case of private sector businesses, Manley said while emergency personnel do have the authority to open the businesses in emergency situations, it would be better if the businesses would prepare ahead of time by ensuring staff and possibly generators are available to run the business soon after a disaster.

Health Department Emergency Response Coordinator Bo Penton said Health Department personnel usually ride a storm out in either the Harrison County or Pearl River County Emergency Operations Centers for a category 2 storm, but for a storm of category 4 or greater they will be sent to Camp Shelby. If Health Department buildings did not suffer severe damage in the storm, they will be reopened as soon as possible.