Storm-weary U.S. braces for next hurricane season

Joe Spraggins knows it will take stockpiles of food, water and fuel and better evacuation routes to survive if the Gulf Coast gets hit by another monster storm this coming hurricane season.

What the emergency management director cannot fully plan for is the psychological toll another hurricane could exact on residents struggling to rebuild their lives after Katrina.

"They're already at the point of breaking," he said. "If we have another storm of any size this summer, mental health is going to be a huge issue."

Katrina laid waste to tens of thousands of homes and businesses and killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. Now, less than two months before the next hurricane season starts June 1, overworked officials and frazzled homeowners are bracing for the possibility of another killer storm in a region where thousands still live in government-issued trailers or under blue tarps.

This hurricane season could be more brutal than last year's, when a record-setting 27 storms, including 15 hurricanes, churned in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters say the Atlantic is in a period of increased hurricane activity that could last another a decade or longer.

Even a weaker storm than Katrina could be devastating, wiping out much of the modest progress that has been made and sweeping away the little trailers.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour calls this a "critical period of vulnerability."

"We're going to pray for the best but prepare for the worst," he said.

Spraggins, whose territory includes Katrina-battered Gulfport and Biloxi, said the county is devising a new emergency plan to replace the old one, reports AP.

O.Ch.