Emergency Management monitoring path of Hurricane Irma

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Bottled water is flying off local grocery store shelves in Lamar County as residents watch the path of Hurricane Irma, remembering the destruction that Hurricane Katrina left behind in the Pine Belt 12 years ago.

Irma, which struck Puerto Rico Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph, was projected to travel to Cuba by Saturday morning.

The hurricane is considered one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storms ever recorded.

Officials at the Ramey’s stores in Purvis and Sumrall said Wednesday afternoon that bottled water – if any – was in short supply.

However, trucks with more water are expected at both stores within the next week.

“We have sold a good bit of water,” Sumrall Ramey’s manager Gary Deen said. “It was a lot of water. We get a better price if we can get it on an 18-wheeler and I already had one booked for next week.”

Other emergency items – such as batteries, flashlights and canned food – aren’t victims of the rush yet, Deen said.

“Everything else is going along pretty normally,” he said. “But for the water, (customers) pretty much finished off what we had.”

Jesse Brassell, the assistant manager of the Ramey’s in Purvis, said bottled water also has been popular.

“So far, (bottled water) is the only thing we have sold out of,” he said. “But we are expecting trucks to bring more water in (Thursday) and Friday. Everything else has been selling at its regular pace.”

Lamar County Emergency Manager James Smith said he understands that Katrina victims are nervous about Irma.

“At this point, we are just monitoring it closely,” he said. “It’s still too early to tell (which way it is going to travel). Everything east or west of Florida is going to be affected.”

Smith said hurricane preparedness information is available at ready.gov or from the National Weather Service.

For Smith, the Boy Scout motto – “Be prepared” – is the best way to get in front of a natural disaster.

“The best thing that I can tell people is to always be prepared at all times, even if there isn’t a hurricane in the Gulf,” he said. “You should always stay vigilant. Keep an eye on every update.”