DeSoto prepared to shelter evacuees

City officials in DeSoto County say that even though Gustav was not as bad as expected, they want people to know they're ready to serve those in need now and in the future.

The Mid-South answered the call when help was needed, and Gustav evacuees are grateful.

"This is a blessing because when I got here, the people were very nice, the place is clean, it's comfortable...we couldn't ask for more than that," said evacuee Gilliam Donaldson.

Director of Operations Bradley Wallace says the arena facility in Southaven, Mississippi is prepared with cots and food for evacuees."The main thing is just trying to make sure you stay ahead of the need, so that we say we've got room for people and when they come here, they can come with confidence that we've got accommodations for them."

Southaven Mayor Greg Davis says Southaven is equipped to house and feed up to 700 people at the Arena alone, should it become necessary. He says the county is currently housing nearly 500 people at churches and other area facilities.

Davis added that lessons learned after Katrina were valuable in terms of how to plan. "I think the fact that...how to be prepared for feedings, how to prepare for those necessities that we all take for granted, such as a shower and a good night's sleep, and providing those basic needs."

Officials say they could possibly accommodate up to 2000 people in area shelters if another event like Katrina occurs.

They say every time an emergency like this happens, they learn a bit more about the value of working together.

"We felt like we were at least in a position to be ahead of the anticipated need...we weren't trying to be to reactionary," said Wallace.

Click here to e-mail Chip Washington.