Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Hurricane Katrina has left a lasting impact on how agencies respond to natural disasters. The 2005 storm heavily damaged the Gulf Coast and caused widespread power outages and tree damage in Meridian.

Courtesy: MGN Online

“It took us a while to recover because of things like critical infrastructure- buildings not having generators on them and things like that,” says John Williamson, the deputy director for the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency. “None of our fire stations had generators at that time so it’s hard to take of other people when you don’t have the things to take of yourself.”

Since the historic storm, disaster response plans have improved for our area and across the state.

“So now I would say the largest lesson learned as far as state-wide is we have a system in place to deploy assets and emergency responders to the coastal areas and not totally wipe-out the man power of the regions in the central part of the state or the northern part of the state,” says Doug Stephens, the director of Public Safety of Meridian.

“One thing that we do a whole lot better now than we did during Katrina I think was, we had county to county communications during Katrina but I think that’s improved a lot,” Williamson says. “We talk to counties around us if not on a daily basis, every other day and we share information, share equipment and things like that.”

Current problems facing emergency management agencies include the need for more funding; however, we are better equipped today to deal with powerful hurricanes

“There are issues that we may struggle with if we have another Katrina, but better prepared today than 13 years ago? Absolutely,” Stephens says.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005. According to FEMA, the cost of the storm is estimated to be around $108 billion and 1,833 people lost their lives either directly or indirectly from the storm.