Parish marks start of an unimaginable hurricane seasonJun 9th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: news
For the people of Plaquemines Plaquemines who call this tiny sliver of land straddling the Mississippi River home, June 1 is a difficult date to celebrate. Plaqueminians – and residents all across the Gulf Coast – invariably approach June 1, the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, with uncertainty and trepidation.
With storms named Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav and Ike wreaking havoc on South Louisiana over the last five years, a measure of fear is understandable.
Again this year, this area is faced with the probability of a busy hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting an “active to extremely active” 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season. The agency anticipates the 2010 storm season to include 14 to 23 named storms, eight to 14 hurricanes and three to seven major hurricanes.
An “average” season would produce 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to NOAA.
And if that isn’t enough, this year Louisiana residents must also factor the gushing oil spill in the Gulf into the equation.
“This year especially we have a challenge with the oil spill in the Gulf,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said at the parish’s annual hurricane preparedness meeting June 1. “We don’t want to scare anybody, but we do need to be realistic. If water does overtop our levees, it will bring oil with it.”
But as with every hurricane season, the key to calming fears is to be informed and to develop a plan of action.
Steps toward preparedness
Parish leaders at the hurricane meeting said a good first step for residents to get prepared is to register for the parish’s reverse 9-1-1 system, which delivers emergency information throughout the parish via telephone call. To register for the free service, go online to www.alertregistration.com/plaquemines.
Residents with special needs are also encouraged to call and register with the parish in case an evacuation is ordered.
Supplies needed for an evacuation include a three to five day supply of water and food that will not spoil, a change of clothing and footwear per person, a first aid kit and prescription medications, emergency tools and batteries, extra keys and cash, and important documents kept in a waterproof container. Families should also settle on a contact number and rendezvous point. More detailed evacuation and reentry information for families and businesses is available online at www.getagameplan.org.
At the parish’s hurricane preparedness meeting, officials from Entergy also cautioned parish employees and residents to avoid power lines knocked down in a storm. Entergy linemen demonstrated the effects a power line carrying 8,000 volts of electricity can have. The company’s Web site, www.entergy.com, offers helpful tips on reporting failures, estimating the length of outages and avoiding downed power lines.
Parish government preparedness
With regard to parish government, Nungesser reported the parish is on alert as this unique storm season gets under way.
Daily, the parish keeps track of where the oil is going and where it has already come ashore. The parish announced June 1 that, after careful study over the Memorial Day weekend, parish officials have determined that close to 3,000 acres of Plaquemines’ coast have been impacted by oil so far. That number dwarfed a previous estimate from BP.
Parish officials are also keeping track of how many cleanup workers are stationed throughout the parish and adjusting its evacuation timeline accordingly. Nungesser said that local fishermen and workers stationed in Venice and on jack-up boats will be evacuated much like oil field crews would be in a typical storm season.
To fight potential flooding during a hurricane, the parish will employ a computer program – called SLOSH – that allows emergency managers to predict storm surge heights. SLOSH stands for “Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes.” Information about the system is available online at www.nhc.noaa.gov.
From a law enforcement standpoint, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff I.F. “Jiff” Hingle said he is confident that his department is ready for whatever challenge arises.
“Rest assured, we have the necessary equipment to keep this parish safe should there be another hurricane,” he said.
Hingle, like Nungesser, was realistic about the oil spill.
“We have a toxic soup out there that we’ve never seen before,” he said. “A change in winds could impact our lives dramatically, and the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Both Hingle and District Attorney Charles Ballay also cautioned residents to be wary of people who will try to take advantage of the situation.
“When you have a crisis, you do have people who prey on it,” Ballay said.