Where Is FEMA?

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A lot of people in the Meridian area have told us they are having difficulty reaching a toll-free number to make application with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1-800-621-3362.

They say they can't get the help they need over the phone or in person. That criticism is nationwide, and there is local criticism of FEMA.

FEMA has told city officials it will set up an office in Meridian to deal with storm claims for locals and evacuees, but that office is not in existence yet.

We began trying to reach FEMA by phone around 2:00 p.m. Friday. The first time we called we got a message telling us all operators were busy and to call back later, the same message dozens of folks here say they've been getting.

When we tried to call back, we got another message, telling us to hold, that an operator would be available in 10 minutes.

And indeed that was the case, though it took a little more than 20 minutes in all to talk to someone from FEMA.

That of course, did not jive with what we've heard from people, so we decided to keep trying, to see if we could get an operator. We tried, and we kept trying, we tried all afternoon but only got the recording.

During one of its messages Newscenter 11 heard, FEMA said the best time to try to call is after 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Meanwhile, FEMA is using this city as an operations center for supply trucks.

NAS Meridian has been transformed into a FEMA staging area for trucks carrying water, ice and MREs. It was done because of its proximity to areas of need.

The trucks are carefully monitored to maintain the integrity of the supplies they're hauling. Officials say this mission is not impeding the rest of the base's normal operations.