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Homeland Security

Mississippi Guard unit helps with Hurricane Gustav preparations

by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
Air Force Print News

8/31/2008 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- When Jamie Jobe heard the knock on her door, she thought nothing of it. Having lived in Gulfport, Miss. most of her life, she was used to her neighbors coming over for a chat or the occasional youngster asking if her lawn needed mowing.

This time it was neither.

Instead, two soldiers in uniform told her she needed to evacuate her home - a trailer in a residential area of Gulfport - by the end of the day. Hurricane Gustav, a dangerous category three storm currently in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to hit the Gulf Coast and bring devastating winds and rain with it.

"We're basically going door-to-door and telling people who live in trailers that the governor has ordered them to evacuate," said Sgt. 1st Class Tim Bell, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard's 98th Cavalry Regiment.

Most of these trailers were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now, three years later, these same residents are being asked to leave again.

"It's for their own safety, but it's still hard for some of them to leave," Sergeant Bell said. "We're just reinforcing the governor's announcement and ensuring everyone gets the word to get out of town or seek shelter elsewhere."

If residents aren't home, the Guard members hang an informational pamphlet on the doorknob that tells the residents of the evacuation order and gives them a number to call for more information.

While the guardsmen can't force anyone to leave, most residents require little prodding.

The memory of Katrina has seen to that.

"Me and my husband are headed to the hospital and we're going to shelter there," Mrs. Jobe said. "Katrina was bad and they're saying this one could be worse, so we're not going to take any chances."

There are an estimated 1,500 FEMA trailers and cottages in the Gulfport area and the goal is for each one to be visited.

"We need to let these people know they need to leave as soon as possible," Sergeant Bell said.

But, while keeping herself and her husband safe are the priority, Mrs. Jobe understands she may be leaving her home for the last time.

"I just hope it's still here when I get back," she said.

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