Area gets storm ready ‘just to be sure’

Published 11:46 pm Monday, September 24, 2007

NATCHEZ — Last week marked the first occasion for Adams County Emergency Management Director George Souderes to be on alert due to an impending tropical depression.

As the now defunct tropical depression No. 10 looked like it might threaten the Gulf Coast, Souderes was preparing Natchez for whatever might come its way.

“The storm did not have much hurricane capability,” Souderes said.

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“But when it gets that close we get lots of agencies involved.”

As the storm developed in the Gulf, Souderes met with those agencies to ensure smooth operation in the event of an emergency.

“We met with the police, fire department, sheriff’s office and the Red Cross. All just to be sure,” Souderes said.

Had the storm developed and threatened the Mississippi costal areas shelters would have been opened.

The eight Natchez area shelters are run by the Red Cross.

The Red Cross has restructured the shelter since Hurricane Katrina, opening churches before the Steckler Multipurpose Center.

After Katrina, Souderes and others noticed that the local churches already had members that were familiar with the grounds.

“They have people that know where the lights are, they know how the kitchen operates. They can run the place,” Souderes said.

“They already have systems in place that make it much easier,” Souderes said.

“It took a while to get all the churches on board. But it really fits in with their mission,” said Don Winters director of Disaster Services for the Red Cross.

Parkway Baptist Church, Community Chapel Church of God, Pilgrim Church, First Baptist Church, Fourth Street Church, Washington Baptist Church and Assumption Catholic Church will be used as shelters. The Steckler Center will be used if needed.

But no matter where the shelters are the Red Cross will make sure they run smoothly.

“We are very ready at all of our shelters,” Winters said.

“We can have a shelter set up in about two hours.”

And while the Red Cross is charged with operating the shelters they must first receive word from Souderes.

Souderes does not instruct the Red Cross to open shelters until he is notified that the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has issued an evacuation order for costal Mississippi.

While the recent storm never amounted to much Souderes was glad for the heads up from the National Weather Service.

Preparation and news chatter are necessary, Souderes said.

“We prefer a bigger lead time. It gives us more time to prepare.”

However, it still remains unclear if the shelters will be used at all for the 2007 hurricane season.

“That’s still wide open,” Souderes said.

For now there is only one storm in the north Atlantic, tropical depression Jerry. It poses no threat to the United States.