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Madere: Local evacuation shelters not feasible with possible storm surge

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / October 19, 1998

LAPLACE – During Hurricane Georges, the policy for St. John the BaptistParish was to encourage evacuation in most of the area and mandate evacuation from the Peavine Road area.

People uncomfortable with staying in their homes, in effect, had no place to go within St. John Parish because no place qualifies as a shelter.Prior to 1965, Civil Defense Director Bertram Madere told the St. JohnParish Council Tuesday, area schools were opened as temporary shelters.

Nowadays, he continued, local governments are sticking with American Red Cross guidelines which advise no shelters within a storm-surge prone area, which includes most of south Louisiana.

Jim Hubbard, chief executive officer of the Southeast Louisiana chapter of American Red Cross, reviewed new Red Cross guidelines, under which certain multi-floor buildings could qualify for exemptions, allowing them to be used as Red Cross shelters, able to withstand 110-mph winds.

In St. John Parish, however, only the old Leon Godchaux Grammar Schoolnear the school board office in Reserve and John L. Ory Elementary inLaPlace, with renovations, might qualify, Madere said.

However, Madere added, Category 3 Hurricane Georges threatened the possibility of an 18-foot storm surge which would have inundated most of the parish. “That’s why we didn’t open a shelter,” he said.Parish Councilman Duaine Duffy asked why no buses were provided to transport parish residents to shelters outside the area, and Madere said there were only three requests for shelter. Duffy added that he learned thefirst 24 people who arrived at a shelter in St. James Parish had comethere from St. John Parish.”Everybody needs a plan,” Madere urged, adding each family needs to plan well in advance as to where they would go and how they would get there should another major storm approach.

Madere, earlier in the council meeting, also advised everyone to purchase flood insurance. With participation in the National Flood InsuranceProgram residents qualify for low rates, and the insurance is also available to renters and to mobile-home residents.

“With a Catagory 4 or 5 storm, St. John has no place to go,” heemphatically stated.

In another matter, Parish President Arnold Labat reported on the state of the Recreation Program under his administration.

He advised he would recommend a new recreation director in January, but in the meantime the biddy basketball program will proceed on schedule, with registration set Oct. 31 and Nov. 7.The program will have three divisions of teams – LaPlace, Reserve and Westbank – due to the ever-growing participation.

“We recruited a lot of volunteers to run the program, and we’re gonna have a damn good program,” Labat declared. “I admit we failed in the past, butwe will have a program all of St. John Parish can be proud of.”

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