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Officials watching Georges closely

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 29, 1998

LAPLACE – Emergency operation directors in the River Parishes prepared the region for a worst-case event Friday. Hurricane Georges, meanwhilecrept past the Florida Keys and took vague aim at the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“We’re taking it seriously,” Gerald Falgoust of St. James Parishcommented. He recalled 1965’s Hurricane Betsy, which was originallyforecast to hit Mississippi yet veered to the mouth of the Mississippi River and stormed through New Orleans and the River Parishes.

St. James Parish has emergency personnel on hand, the parish hospital isprepared and everyone from firefighters to public works employees are in high gear, expecting the worst and hoping for the best.

Successive reports from the National Weather Service slowly have been edging the landfall of Hurricane Georges more and more west. However,such predictions are only guesses, at best, and hurricanes are not truly predictable.

“Right now, we’re preparing as if we get the event,” he added.

In St. Charles Parish, Tab Troxler has been working closely with the parishadministration and advising people to prepare for a possible evacuation, which could come as soon as today.

“We’re as prepared as possible,” Troxler commented. Streets whichsustained high water from earlier storms have been cleared, sandbags are in place and personnel are ready.

“We’ve been in this mode for several weeks now,” he said. “We’ve justtold the residents to get ready for an evacuation if an evacuation order is given.”All three parishes have been on a twice-daily conference call with the state Office of Emergency Preparedness, coordinating a regional defensive effort.

Should evacuation orders be given, the directors urge residents to comply without protest after securing their homes as much as possible.

In St. John the Baptist Parish, Bertram Madere likewise said parishemployees have been readying the parish as much as possible, pumping down canals, sandbagging where needed and trying to clear subdivision ditches.

If the storm begins to look more like it’s coming directly at south Louisiana, Madere commented, the first step will be to recommend evacuation of low-lying areas and trailer parks.

“If it goes to the mouth of the river, it’s a whole new ball game,” Madere cautioned. “People should make plans.”Madere continued, “We’re in a wait-and-see attitude. We haven’t let ourguard down. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

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