In Mississippi, we prepared for Gustav like it would be another Hurricane Katrina. Preparations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast started in earnest when Gustav was a Category 4 and the potential was there for it to become a Category 5. The National Hurricane Center's projected path of Gustav proved very accurate with landfall expected along the central Louisiana coast. Mississippi has been experiencing the tail-end of Gustav all day. Even at 11:00 pm Monday evening, the occasional gust would go through. The storm surge spread across the Mississippi Coast and was greater than expected.
Mississippi started preparing for Gustav on Wednesday, August 26, 2008. Containers at the Port of Gulfport were moved inland. People began stocking up on water, food, and materials needed to secure homes. Businesses took the threat seriously and secured inventory, equipment, and files. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Hancock and Harrison counties for those living in flood zones A & B. Mandatory evacuations were also ordered for those living in FEMA trailers and Katrina cottages. The National Guard was called in.
It was an eerie repetition of what we all were doing three years ago in preparation for Hurricane Katrina. Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina were employed, hence the containers being ordered inland. School buses were used to evacuate those who needed transportation and pets were allowed to go along. The Mississippi Department of Transportation did a great job of handling the contraflow of evacuees from New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana.
Some may say the threat of Gustav was hyped up. That all the time and energy put into preparing for Gustav was wasted effort since we did not have a direct hit or because it was not a major hurricane when it made landfall in Louisiana. Hurricanes can be very unpredictable. You can never know what to expect until it hits land. Hurricane Camille which struck the Mississippi Coast in 1969 intensified to a Category 5 just before it made landfall. Hurricane Georges which struck us in 1998 was a Category 2 storm. The rains it dumped caused major flooding in Jackson County.
With other disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires, you don't know when they will occur. When a tornado threatens, you may have only a few minutes warning to seek shelter. With hurricanes, you have days to get prepared. And if you don't, it can cost you your life. Everyone should have a basic emergency kit consisting of food and water to last at the minimum of three days. It's best to prepare for a longer period of time.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That is what we in Mississippi and Louisiana did for Gustav and by doing so, lives were saved.