Mississippi agencies, nonprofits and other groups that answer victims’ needs in the face of natural disasters are standing for whatever damage the hurricane-turned-storm named “Harvey” might bring as it passes through our state.
According to an advisory released early Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, Harvey is expected to move northeast over the next 48 hours, rolling into northwestern Mississippi by Thursday afternoon and into the western Tennessee Valley Region on Friday. It is expected to hit the Lower Ohio Valley early Saturday before dissipating Saturday afternoon.
This could also be the case in southeast Mississippi, which could see 5-10 inches of rain over the next few days, said Greg Flynn, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. MEMA has supplied sandbags to some Gulf Coast counties and is working with counties in the Delta to see what they need, Flynn said.
Groups like Salvation Army and United Way are also standing by in case their services are needed in an emergency. Morgan Shiyou, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army Mississippi Gulf Coast, said they have supplies like water, food and clean-up kits on hand both in Mississippi and in the surrounding region.
But a challenge in preparing for the worst is not being sure of what you’ll need until you need it.
Maj. Gary Sturdivant, who commands the Salvation Army Mississippi Gulf Coast Area, said all its units should be able to handle a natural disaster for the first 72 hours. Salvation branches in Jackson, Florence, Alabama, and the Gulf Coast are ready to serve the Delta with enough resources to last through that time period, Sturdivant said.
The nonprofit can also team up with others in the state, depending on victims’ needs. Otherwise, it could deploy to Texas over the next few days.
“Some groups come in as rescue, nourishment shelters or make physical repairs of people’s homes,” Sturdivant said. “We’re all working together to make sure people are safe and nourished and can get back to normalcy. This process in Texas can go on for years … Salvation Army has been doing case management since Katrina hit. This disaster will be felt for many, many years.”
Meanwhile, United Way of West Central Mississippi is currently focusing its efforts on helping those affected in Houston by collecting donated items such as diapers, wipes, formula, cleaning supplies, nonperishables, hygiene products and water at the Vicksburg Mall, Calvary Baptist Church and Greater Grove Street Missionary Baptist Church, said community impact and event coordinator Shannon Royal.
The organization is also eyeing the local weather closely in case its services are needed at home.
“We do know there’s a possibility that we may need to assist others in Mississippi, and if so, we will do all that we can to assist anyone who is in need at any time,” Royal said.
If everything bodes well in Mississippi, Royal said the organization will keep directing its efforts toward Houston.
“We have received so much help in the past all over the U.S. We want to be able to give back as well,” Royal said. “Vicksburg alone has experienced quite a bit of floods in the past, and some of them have been very severe.”
Flynn advises that residents prepare for the worst. He said it’s best to gather enough items to be self-sufficient for three days, suggesting a personal emergency supply kit with nonperishable food, a gallon of water per person per day in each household, and things that may be scarce when businesses are closed in extreme weather conditions, like gasoline.
“Please don’t let your guard down,” Flynn said. “Let this serve as a warning, what we saw in southeast Texas … We’re just now entering the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season … Be prepared. Have your plan. Really take it seriously.”