Hurricane Katrina 8-year Anniversary - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Hurricane Katrina 8-year Anniversary

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Hurricane Katrina was an extremely powerful storm that caused enormous destruction and significant loss of life.

Mississippi reported 179 deaths. Katrina broke the record for the costliest hurricane to ever strike the United States. The federal government has spent $120.5 billion on the gulf region.

The storm captivated the public and the media across the world.

We spoke to Forrest County Emergency Management Director Terry Steed to reflect on that day and the progress the Pine Belt has made.

"It was a very trying time," he said.

Steed said the winds reached around 120 mph, and over 20,000 structures were damaged in the City of Hattiesburg and Forrest Co. during Hurricane Katrina.

He said he will always remember how well the public safety agencies, city employees, and volunteer fire departments worked together with residents to help each other.

"In the worst of things, there's good that comes out of it," Steed said. "Being in South Mississippi, people help people."

He said the Emergency Operations Center was activated at noon the day before the storm.  Workers stayed there for five weeks straight without going home and with very little sleep.

"The adrenaline was so high and we were so busy, we really didn't realize that we were tired." Steed said.

He said street lights are something he took for granted before the storm.

"You can't find where you're at," Steed said.  "You don't see road signs. You have no street lights. Just going from my office to downtown was kind of an eerie feeling."

He warned that there are still about two months left in hurricane season this year.

"We're still predicted to have an above average season, so you don't want to let your guard down," Steed said.

He said preparedness isn't about what the government can do for residents, but what they can do for their own families.  He suggests stocking up enough supplies to be self-sustained for at least three-to-five days without leaving the house.

"Now we had Katrina, which made Camille look small," Steed said.  "Now people are saying, 'well, we'll never have another Katrina.'  We probably will. We just don't know when. We just need to be prepared for it."

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