Forrest County preps for Isaac

© Joe Waites has two generators this time around.
© Joe Waites has two generators this time around.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg resident Joe Waites has a backup generator for his backup generator this time.

"Maybe just be a little bit more prepared," said Waites, who experienced Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "Last time I didn't have any water, you know the water went out - I've got a 55 gallon drum I'm going to fill up with water this time."

At a Forrest County readiness briefing Monday morning at the Office of Emergency Management, department heads crowded together, coordinating for Hurricane Isaac.

"My biggest concern: Is the individual family ready?" said Forrest County Emergency Management Director Terry Steed. "If the families are ready, then this will be a nuisance event for a few days. If they're not, then they're going to be in agony until it's over."

With no evacuations planned right now, and no launch of a contra-flow route through the state, it's clear officials are planning for a storm significantly less powerful than Katrina.

"This is not anything to take lightly, but yet we're not looking at a Katrina-type storm," said Steed.

Hattiesburg Fire Department is ready to shift gears - from fighting fires, to wielding chain saws.

"If you notice that you have some trees around your property that look like they might possibly be dead or may not be strong enough to withstand some of the winds that we will get, I would take the precautions to go ahead and leave," said HFD Public Information Officer Geneva Morgan.

The department will still respond to fires, but will most likely be out clearing roads of debris throughout the storm to make way for rescue vehicles.

City police are beginning 12 hour shifts tomorrow and routing in more than 30 extra officers from department across the state for hurricane duty.

"They'll be patrolling until the winds and all get up, whenever the winds get up and get into a sustained amount, depending on how high it is, we will request the officers to take cover," said Lieutenant Jon Traxler.

At least five officers dropped off patrol during Katrina after their cars were either damaged by the storm or trapped by downed trees.

"We ask that people not call 911, unless there are some kind of life injuries or stuff like that, where they need ambulance or fire, or there's burglaries in progress thinks like that. As far as trees falling and stuff, that is not what 911 is used for," said Traxler.

Waites was in his living room when he says nearly a dozen trees slammed down in his yard - and on his house - during Katrina.

When asked how concerned he was about this storm, Waites answered: "Well, not quite as much I don't think. Because one reason, there's like 11 or 12 less trees than there used to be."

Officials say the Pine Belt is actually in pretty good shape for this storm. The ground is dry, the drainage ditches are empty, ready for this rainfall, and they say the biggest difference here, since Katrina, is the power grid. It's been reinforced over the last seven years, so you can expect to be out of power for one to three days, not weeks, this time. Ashlea surles, in Hattiesburg, for seven on your side.