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Extend a hand to aid evacuees


Our View

Seven years ago today Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. A flawed levee system failed, causing flooding that caused mass devastation. About 1,800 people were killed and 80 percent of the city was destroyed. Arkansas stands ready to welcome evacuees or provide assistance to Gulf Coast states bracing for Tropical Storm Isaac that could reach hurricane strength before making landfall.

We reached out to help Katrina evacuees seven years ago, sending supplies to the Gulf Coast states and proving food and shelter at the church camp south of Redfield and the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

We may need to extend a hand of welcome again.

The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism activated the COVER program Monday to prepare for possible evacuees from the potential hurricane. The acronym stands for Communication Vacancies Emergency Response Plan and was created in response to the influx of people fleeing to Arkansas during Katrina.

Evacuations were under way Monday in many Gulf Coast communities in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The COVER program uses a website to provide information such as storm updates and available shelter locations and hotel/motel vacancies to people needing assistance.

“Now we don’t expect anything like (Katrina), but it’s always better to be prepared,” Gov. Mike Beebe announced. “Some procedures have already been implemented.”

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management was working with local emergency managers in South Arkansas to make sure that preparations are made for possible evacuees, Beebe said.

Public safety personnel from Jefferson County responded after a tornado lashed Dumas in February 2007, when a twister hit Stuttgart in May 2008 and a monster tornado pummeled Joplin, Mo., in May 2011.

Extending a hand in a time of need is what being a good neighbor is about.