Governor Bryant stops in Forrest County

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - On his way down to the Gulf coast Tuesday morning, where he'll take up position during the storm, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant stopped by the Forrest County storm shelter on Highway 49 North.

In an exclusive interview with WDAM, Governor Bryant said he is on the road today but has been working the phones over the last 48 hours. He said he had a call with President Obama Monday, he's been in touch with the head of FEMA, as well as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.. Bryant said he woke up Tuesday morning at about 2:30 to take a look at the radar.

"Hattiesburg took a very hard hit during Katrina. This storm could pick up and be that same size," said Bryant.

Bryant said his greatest concern Tuesday morning was how powerful the storm could become.

"Could this storm become a Cat 2 as it hits land? It's 185 miles out, it's moving very slowly now. That'll allow it to pick up some energy from the warm waters of the gulf coast," said Bryant. "That's our concern is what type of storm will this be and what category will it be when it reaches landfall."

Bryant called the Hancock County area the portion of the state more vulnerable to Hurricane Isaac's trajectory.

"If you look at the Hancock County area, because the storm has moved some to the west, so that northeastern quadrant, as it turns counter-clockwise, has the most energy. There's low-lying areas like Pearlington in that Hancock County area. The good thing about it: we are prepared, we're experts in this.

"I've been here since Katrina, I was on the coast just a few days after that as state auditor. Gustav, Ike, every one that we've had on the Gulf coast, I've been on the Gulf coast," said Bryant.

When asked if the state's communication and response structure was adequate as the storm is bearing down and likely to take out electricity for potentially days, Bryant said it has been significantly reinforced since Katrina.

"We've come a long way in seven years, said Bryant."

"We've been able to harden those antennae that we have - the towers. We make sure that we've gotten generators at the base of them, so if we lose power through the normal resources, that we're able to use generators to provide it. We feel very good about a seamless communication system that we have here."

During the storm the governor will be holed up at Keesler Air Force Base, which is about 3 or 4 miles from the coast. He'll be in a warehouse that's built to withstand a Category 4 storm. Staff say that's where he waited out Gustav in 2008.