KILN, Miss. -- On a satellite snapshot of this tiny town is a cluster of red dots that looks ominous to scientists like Joe Swaykos.
The dots represent 132 trailers set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for people whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The trailers are crammed into 1 square mile, and most of them are along the banks of the Jourdan River.
Those homes and the people living in them could be in real danger if another hurricane strikes the Gulf Coast, said Swaykos, director of the University of Southern Mississippi's Center of Higher Learning, situated at National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Stennis Space Center.
''If the Jourdan River rises above flood stage, forget about it," he said. ''It's going to be a real mess."
Swaykos and his Stennis colleagues mapped the location of FEMA trailers using space-age technology and old-fashioned legwork. It is one of several projects they are working on to help local officials get ready for the start of the next hurricane season, June 1.
Knowing where the FEMA trailers are could be useful if there is a hurricane evacuation, but the mapping has not gone as well as Swaykos had hoped. His office asked FEMA for a complete list of where more than 35,000 trailers and mobile homes in Mississippi are situated. FEMA declined to share the data, citing privacy concerns.
''We try to work with them as best as we can, to allow them to contribute to the recovery process, but paramount to us is the privacy of individuals," said Mary Hudak, FEMA spokeswoman.
Swaykos and his colleagues are puzzled by FEMA's refusal to cooperate.
''We don't care who's in the trailers. Just tell us where they are," said Jim Matthews, head of a mapping laboratory at the Center of Higher Learning.
Ultimately, Matthews created the map of the Kiln neighborhood without FEMA's help.
He spent a recent morning there, recording the coordinates of the trailers he saw. Back at the lab, he plotted the data on a photo with red dots.
In addition to the flood danger to the trailers is the risk that a hurricane will turn the homes into projectiles. ''Those things are going to be missiles going through the air," said Joseph Spraggins, Harrison County Emergency Management director.
Also, Swaykos said he is concerned that many residents will try to haul their trailers to a safer place if a hurricane threatens. That could clog evacuation routes.