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Karen’s lesson in preparedness

Tropical Storm Karen’s winds were weaker than the strong Brees that blew through Chicago this weekend, but the first real, and hopefully only, threat of the hurricane season provided an opportunity for officials to dust off their emergency preparedness plans and evaluate any flaws.
Karen’s strength was never really considered imposing, but forecasters were concerned about the possibility of heavy rains and tidal flooding. As those in the River Parishes learned a year ago with Hurricane Isaac, rising water is often more catastrophic than high winds.
Parish officials throughout southeast Louisiana immediately enacted emergency plans once Karen entered the Gulf and started her northward movement, which, fortunately, would end in her fizzling out before having any significant impact along the coastline.
In St. Charles Parish officials declared a state of emergency, activated the Emergency Operations Center and cleaned out canals.
St. John Parish was equally as active as officials set up an operations center, placed generations at strategic locations and ordered a voluntary evacuation for a small, flood-prone area north of Interstate 10.
Throughout the area other parishes followed similar procedures.
Some residents also used the threat to double check their own emergency preparation measures, whether it was loading up on batteries, water or purchasing fuel for the generator in case electricity would have been lost. Some banks even reported an uptick in business Friday, as customers withdrew cash to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
Karen’s tease served as a reminder that even as we move into the pleasantness of autumn’s cooling temperatures, hurricane season is never over until the last of the Thanksgiving turkey is devoured. Let’s not forget that Hurricane Sandy last year struck with devastating results during the month of October. There is some relief in that the region has entered into the less active part of the season, and each cold front that manages to push through cools the Gulf temperatures, robbing any approaching storm of the fuel needed for intensification. But as witnessed by Isaac and other smaller storms in past years, even a slow-moving tropical system can leave a deadly trail.
For the first time this year, an approaching storm put the region on high alert, and all appeared to have gone smoothly. Let’s hope those storm plans can now collect dust for another year.