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MS planning response

Though disaster responders in Mississippi are in the wait and see stage right now with Hurricane Katrina, one is already calling the flooding 'massive.'


Though disaster responders in Mississippi are in the wait and see stage right now with Hurricane Katrina, one is already calling the flooding 'massive.'

Ken Bartosek of Lutheran/Episcopal Disaster Response (LDR) in Mississippi said he's already hearing reports in from his contacts along the coast.

"We're looking at massive flooding down on the coast," said Bartosek, the state coordinator for LDR. "We're talking water one-foot into the second story of buildings. Hancock and Harrison county are getting slammed. It's just complete, massive flooding."

Bartosek added that the lingering strength of Katrina will continue to cause more damage inland as well. "I live in Jackson and I have a shed that's blown over and trees down, we're going to have a heck of a time dealing with this one."

Other disaster responders also speculated on what they would be dealing with once the wind and rain died down.

"We're probably going to deal with flooding - not just on the coast but across the state," said Jeff Pruett, disaster response coordinator for the United Methodist Church in Mississippi. "Right now we're in the process of locating (response) teams, seeing who is ready to go. And we'll have to work on assessments once we're allowed to go in."

Pruett said that his response teams have several trailers equipped with generators, cleanup supplies and tools that will be mobilized in the response to Katrina. He added that United Methodist districts across the state are all gathering flood buckets and supplies as well.

Methodist churches are also acting as shelters in some areas, with several churches taking in as many families as they can. "Churches of all sizes see that there's help they can provide," noted Pruett. "It's a neat expression of grace."

While the hardest hit areas of the state remains to be seen, Pruett said there are particular counties and cities he worries that will take the brunt harder than others. Hancock County, in southwestern Mississippi, is in a low-lying area and is home to many low-income families, he explained.

"I'm also worried about areas south of I-10 and Highway 90, they will probably see extensive damage. I know those areas will have a great number of needs."

Bartosek agreed about the potential hard-hit areas along the coast.

"I'm worried about Jackson County," he said. "That's all low income and they haven't had a lot of flooding before." He also included Pearl River County and Harrison County.

But Bartosek said he's also playing the 'wait and see' game right now as well. He hopes to be in damaged areas by Wednesday to do assessments.

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