Two groups teamed up Friday to help keep Mississippi safe during hurricane season. The Hurricane Hunters and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (M.E.M.A.) teamed up and gave a presentation at the Biloxi Visitors Center to help raise hurricane preparedness awareness.
Both agencies spoke to the residents that were on hand to explain what each group does and how together, this helps them save lives. Jeff Ragusa, a Hurricane Hunter pilot, says, "Our main goal is to get them to prepare for hurricanes and to understand that there is some credibility to the information that we are giving them."
The Hurricane Hunters bravely fly directly into some of the strongest storms on Earth. They risk their lives on every mission, but gladly do so, knowing the information they are getting is integral to saving lives. Their only fear is that the public may not take evacuation notices seriously. Ragusa also says, "As a pilot with the Hurricane Hunters, I would like to know that I'm not taking myself and my crew into that hurricane for nothing."
The data that the Hurricane Hunters bring back is vital to hurricane track forecasting. Agencies like M.E.M.A. use this information to their advantage. Robert Latham, the Executive Director of M.E.M.A., says, "It's a team effort. It begins with the data that comes from the Hurricane Hunters, to the hurricane center that does the modeling, and then comes to us as emergency managers to make decisions to make recommendations to our officials, in my case to the Governor."
Many Coast residents have taken evacuation notices lightly in the past, but that all changed early one August day in 2005. Latham also says, "Katrina taught us to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, so my message to the citizens is listen to your local officials, listen to your media outlets. When the recommendations come out for voluntary evacuations, that's when you need to evacuate."
Officials advise if you do not have an evacuation plan for you and your family, you are already behind, and you don't want to be staring down the eye of a storm and realize it's too late.