Barbour: ‘We're Geared Up for a Major Storm' | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Barbour: ‘We're Geared Up for a Major Storm'

Also see: Jackpedia: Hurricane Gustav to get/post vital information.

In a 5 p.m. press conference today, Gov. Haley Barbour announced a 10 p.m. curfew in cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and said the state is preparing for storm surges that could top 20 feet, depending on how the hurricane goes overnight.

"The state is prepared for the hurricane to hit head-on on the Gulf Coast," he said. "... We're geared up for a major storm."

He also confirmed that Gustav has sped up across the Gulf and will reach landfall sooner than originally projected, probably before noon Monday. He said that the state will start experiencing tropical force winds overnight tonight. Barbour also said the contraflow on I-55 and I-59 will stop this evening as soon as it makes sense logistically. Barbour said that 200 law enforcement officials and up to 2,500 Mississippi National Guard members will be deployed along the Coast tonight to protect the property of people who have evacuated.

Barbour said that the school-bus convoys going south have gone smoothly and the first round of buses have started their return, and expects the first group of buses to arrive at the Mississippi Coliseum in an hour or so. "We anticipate picking up fewer than 2,000, more than 1,000 but fewer than 2000 people who did not have any transportation to evacuate," he said.

He said 49 shelters are open in the state; 11 are full. About 2,800 people are in the shelters as of this moment and will increase. To get direction to shelters with space, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or 1-866-519-MEMA, Barbour said. Womack said they are setting up additional lines with extra people to take the calls

"We can't shelter everyone in Jackson," MEMA Director Mike Womack said, adding that some people will have to go to Meridian or up to Grenada. He said that the Coliseum will hold about 1,500 people.

So far, Barbour said that the Coliseum is being held for the people coming in on the buses. "There's plenty of capacity in the shelters ... but not necessarily in Jackson," Barbour said. People should bring bedding, blankets, pillows, towels, personal hygience, change of clothes and water and some food to the shelters. "It looks like we're not going to see people in the shelters for weeks after we did after Katrina," Barbour said.

Barbour said that each nursing home is required to have a plan for relocation, and that seems to be working so far.

One nursing home in Louisiana brought special-needs patients to Mississippi, and the state hellped place them in Hudspeth, he said.

Barbour said there is not gasoline shortage, so just go to another station if one has run out. "There is plenty of gasoline in the system," he said, adding that Chevron is not going to close their refinery at Pascagoula, and is confident in their security and safety precautions. "That's 330,000 thousands of gallons of oil a day that will get refined and put into the system." The refinery staying open is "good for motorists and the economists."

The governor pledged to help neighboring Louisiana with the state's resources and personnel if they are not needed here. "If by God's grace this storm doesn't hit us very hard, we will be prepared to move assets into Louisiana if we don't need those assets," Barbour said.

"The reason Mississippi came out better (during Katrina) than some other states was that Mississippi was better prepared," he added.

"We're got to do what we can to rebuild the Coast better than ever, and if that means we have to deal with a storm like this every now and then, that's what we're going to have to do," he said.

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