Joe Buck Coates
If there was any doubt that Copiah County agencies, government, service providers and residents were ready for a major emergency situation, the entire event of Hurricane Gustav proved otherwise.
Beginning as early as Tuesday, August 23, the Copiah County Office of Emergency Management, led by director Randle Drane and 911 coordinator Ricky Stevens, began gathering resources and alerting county leaders to the storm’s potential impact on the county. They monitored the system throughout the day Wednesday, passing along updates from MEMA and the National Weather Service. Local residents sprung into action, getting themselves and their families and property ready.
Then, Drane and Stevens met with the Board of Supervisors, agency heads, law enforcement authorities and emergency responders on Thursday afternoon to make sure that each had sufficient resources and to see what resources could be shared if needed. The supervisors, at the behest of Drane, Stevens and board attorney Elise Munn, declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm in a later meeting that day, paving the way for the sheriff’s department to implement and enforce a curfew if necessary and opening the door to state and federal aid down the road.
Over the weekend of the 26-28, as Gustav brewed in the Gulf and headed towards south Louisiana, Drane kept the media and government leaders advised, enabling us to keep the public advised via our website. Then, when the thousands of evacuees began arriving from Louisiana, the OEM coordinated the efforts of local shelters and others who were lending a hand to make the exodus as smooth as possible. Local volunteers by the dozens came out to help in any way possible.
As the eastern part of the storm roared through Copiah County on Monday and Tuesday and local residents hunkered down to stay safe, OEM stayed on the ball and helped coordinate the clean-up efforts throughout the county. The volunteers manning the shelters stayed on top of things and eased the burden of evacuation for our neighbors as much as possible.
Now, days later, we may be doing it all over again, as Hurricane Ike approaches the Gulf of Mexico. But, Gustav provided an excellent opportunity, and, I believe, the county responded well. Sure, some bumps were felt along the way, but overall the people in the shelters and on the road felt welcomed and most assuredly appreciated the readiness of the county to handle such a big event.
So, we take our hats off to everyone who helped – great or small – with getting through the storm. Coming together as a whole proves that we can accomplish big things in the face of adversity.