Barbour, MEMA launch hurricane preparedness effort

Barbour, MEMA launch hurricane preparedness effort

With AP Photo

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) Gov. Haley Barbour is telling Mississippians to hope for the best but prepare for the worst as the 2006 hurricane season approaches.

Barbour was in Biloxi on Thursday to launch an eight-week campaign to let people know how to get themselves and their families ready before hurricane season starts June 1.

Officials say more than 100,000 Mississippians are living in travel trailers and mobile homes because their houses and apartments were destroyed Aug. 29 by Hurricane Katrina.

“One of the lessons of Katrina and there were many is that even with all the information and assistance that is available, there really is no substitute for awareness and self-help, especially in the days before a hurricane is predicted to hit,” Barbour said in a statement.

Barbour said the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is starting a survey to determine how many people in the six southernmost counties will need transportation in case an evacuation is called.

People in Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George counties can call a toll-free number until May 26 to answer questions about their transportation needs.

The number is 1-866-647-0966. Operators will be on duty 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday though Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

Barbour told The Associated Press in an interview this past month that officials expect a significant number of people to need transportation if there’s a hurricane evacuation this year because their vehicles were destroyed by Katrina.

Barbour said Mississippi will not buy buses to provide transportation during hurricane evacuations. Rather, he said, school buses from various parts of the state could be pressed into service.

MEMA director Robert Latham said people living in travel trailers provided by the federal government should not try to evacuate in the trailers.

“We urge our citizens to sit down with their families and develop a plan that includes early evacuation and a clear destination, a family communications plan, and supplies to support extended stays away from home,” Latham said.

During the eight-week public awareness campaign, officials will try to bring attention to the need for families and businesses to have disaster plans. They’ll also talk about evacuation routes, volunteer efforts, insurance, health issues and mental health needs.