Vicksburg out of room, officials say|[9/5/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2005

“The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home, and every day she called him and said, ‘Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?’ And he said, ‘And yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday’ – and she drowned Friday night. She drowned on Friday night. Nobody’s coming to get her, nobody’s coming to get her. The secretary’s promise, everybody’s promise. They’ve had press conferences – I’m sick of the press conferences. For God’s sakes, shut up and send us somebody.” Aaron Broussard – President of Jefferson Parish

Vicksburg’s four shelters can serve the long-term Hurricane Katrina evacuees already in the city but can accept no more, Red Cross officials said Sunday.

“We’re capping off at 700, and there are still people at motels that are unaccountable, who we are serving also,” said Beverly Connelly, director of the Vicksburg chapter. “Vicksburg is at long-term capacity for long-term sheltering.”

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

The “full” sign on Vicksburg prompted Gov. Haley Barbour to announce that a National Guard unit from Indiana is headed to the city to provide medical care indefinitely, said Rick Stone, a nurse anesthetist at River Region Medical Center and Red Cross volunteer.

The 52-person mobile unit, which includes a physician, three physician assistants, LPNs and medics, is a self-contained unit with 19 vehicles, cooks, mechanics and drivers. The A Company 205th Area Main Support Battalion 38th Infantry Division from Camp Aterberry in Indiana will be in Vicksburg this afternoon and will stay at the City Auditorium. Their services may be used by all evacuees, whether they are in shelters, hotels or with family and friends, Stone said.

“This will give some of our doctors and nurses a break,” Connelly said. “While we have these resources, we need to use them.”

The announcements came as Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent James Price said registration of new students from the hurricane-stricken areas will begin this morning at 8. A team will be in place with application forms at the city’s largest shelter, Vicksburg Convention Center, and move later to shelters at First Baptist and Bowmar Baptist.

“We’ll take as many as we have to,” said the superintendent of the district that had about 9,000 students when the school year began Aug. 10.

Price last week said the district would be able to take up to about 250 students, but Sunday he said new accommodations have been made.

He said the district plans to hire teachers and former school bus drivers from among the evacuees.

Registration for evacuees will continue at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the district’s administration building.

Local schools have been closed for a week and are scheduled to reopen Tuesday.

Price cautioned residents whose roads are still blocked by downed trees to take students to main roads where they can be seen by bus drivers.

“This is a major step for our community,” Price said. “We need our children to assume somewhat of a normal routine.”

Meanwhile, normalcy continued to creep into the community as Entergy and contracted power companies restored electricity to more homes and businesses.

Customer service manager Don Arnold said 6,618 customers were without power as nightfall approached Sunday, down from about 7,000 the day before and 22,000 on Tuesday.

“We’re getting more help as we go,” Arnold said, explaining that the number working to restore electricity was up to 374 Sunday night.

Sunday brought a full week that evacuees from the Gulf Coast have been steadily pouring into Vicksburg.

During the hectic week, law officers said the area appears to have begun to calm down from the high winds, long gas lines and power outages.

“It’s not near about as bad as it was,” Capt. Mark Culbertson, chief of detectives with the Vicksburg Police Department said Sunday. “Hopefully it will continue to slow down.”

No arrests were made in the city over the weekend for price gouging or fights at the pumps. Nine arrests had been made last week and two reports of gouging were filed, Culbertson said.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace agreed that things in the county had slowed down, possibly to the point that frivolity had creeped in.

At 5 Sunday morning, he said, two young women on horses were arrested after greeting gas customers as they rode up topless at a station off U.S. 61 North. They were charged with public drunk and public indecency, he said.