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Storm prep a team effort

By Kimberly Hopson

NEW ORLEANS – St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom and St. James Parish President Timmy Rousel gathered with a delegation of public officials on Friday at the Port of New Orleans to address parish-level hurricane preparedness and this year’s hurricane season.
The press conference featured commentary from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Ken Graham of the National Weather Service, Col. Richard Hansen, the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, and Marcia St. Martin, president of the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, as well as the presidents of Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.
Roussel noted the importance of planning for future emergencies and recommended that all citizens have a personal evacuation plan in place and sign up to receive emergency text notifications through the parish website. Roussel also commented on the state of St. James Parish as it works to create a solution that will prevent the level of flood damage residents experienced last year during Hurricane Isaac.
“I think we’ve sharpened our pencils to improve on what we’ve been doing for the past years. The scary part of it all is, we saw a different animal in Isaac. There’s nothing to improve any (existing) levee system or hurricane protection system to protect from most of the back water that would come in and get onto us. You just heard — if we wait on them, it’s going to be a while, so we might have to do some things on our own,” said Roussel.  
Roussel said the parish recently hired an engineering firm to help devise a solution but has not received a report just yet. The parish expects to receive a completed report by the year’s end and to commence building the following year. Even so, Roussel said it will likely take years to complete whatever solution they devise.
Robottom also stressed the unique nature of Isaac — and the unique nature of all storms in general —  but said that St. John  Parish has taken extra preventative measures to prepare for storm season this year based on lessons learned from Isaac. She encouraged government entities and the representatives of surrounding parishes to support a comprehensive protection plan to avoid large-scale disaster in the event of another storm. She noted that since all evacuation routes run through St. John Parish, it is important to shore up every link in
“We’ve made additional preparations compared to last year. What we thought would be our major concern was our water infrastructure, and it ended up being water but it was more flood water than drinking water. However, both continue to be a problem. We ask that the commitment to St. John Parish residents as well as the River Parishes remain in place, and that is to provide with risk reduction and hurricane protection,” said Robottom.
“We are concerned, and we’re going to need to work very closely with our partners, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Transportation and the Levee District because the evacuation routes for all of us run through St. John the Baptist Parish. Unfortuantely, it was under water for Hurricane Isaac. We cannot afford to have that happen again, but we cannot also have the interim measures affect the residents of St. John Parish. We remain vulnerable, which means you remain vulnerable if your evacuation route is underwater,” she continued.