Stay safe this hurricane season

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, June 15, 2016

RESERVE — The first storms of the 2016 Hurricane Season formed early, signifying to many — especially those in the River Parishes — that there is no time like the present to prepare for a hurricane.

To help local residents get prepared, a Parish Hurricane Preparedness Meeting will be open to the public, starting at 6 p.m. June 22 at REGALA Gym, 200 REGALA Park Road in Reserve.

Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director James Waskom and National Weather Service Meteorologist Ken Graham will serve as guest speakers for the meeting.

Parish President Natalie Robottom noted Tropical Storm Alex, the first named storm of the year, and Tropical Storm Bonnie formed outside of hurricane season.

“This should alert residents that they need to be prepared every day,” she said. “It only takes one storm or severe weather event to devastate a community.”

Residents are strongly encouraged to finalize preparations for their families and businesses. This includes finalizing family/business plans, checking disaster supply kits, replacing old batteries, and determining the best evacuation destination and route.

Residents are asked to review the parish’s hurricane brochure or visit or for more hurricane preparedness information.

Items such as battery-powered flashlights, extra batteries, medications, water, non-perishable foods, hand-operated can openers, utility knives, first aid supplies, radios and waterproof bags for important documents should be readily accessible.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

While a near-normal season is likely (45 percent), there is a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season.

Parish officials said prepositioned contracts and agreements for transportation, sheltering, pets, generators, disaster recovery and a last resort shelter are in place while staff continue to review emergency plans and procedures.

To address damages caused by Hurricane Isaac and to prevent it from happening again, Robottom said 24 submersible pumps have been installed at 12 lift stations and a telemetry system is being installed on 50 Parish lift stations. Lake gauges are currently in place and rain-tracking devices are located at fire stations, the EOC and on Lake Pontchartrain and a high water vehicle has been acquired to access critical infrastructure.

In the wake of the February tornado, Robottom said she requested and received approval of a resolution urging the state of Louisiana to establish a Disaster Assistance Funding Program to assist residents, municipalities, political subdivisions and parish governments in times of disaster when federal disaster assistance is not available.

The Coastal Caucus Committee and Police Jury Association adopted the resolution, as well.

“It is imperative that the state establish a policy for such occurrences as they appear to be increasing in intensity and frequency,” Robottom said. “We must find a way to fund these disasters without the burden lying solely on local government.”

Residents are encouraged to sign up to receive personalized messages to their phones and email addresses by visiting and clicking “Stay Connected.”

Weather warnings are automatically sent based on notifications from the National Weather Service. During an emergency, notifications and updates will also be shared on the parish website, Facebook, twitter and SJTV. Residents with medical disabilities or special needs should call the Health and Human Services Department at 985-652-9569 to register in advance for evacuation plans.

Public Safety staff are available to conduct Hurricane Preparedness presentations for the public at town hall meetings and for neighborhood associations by request. Call 252-652-2222 to schedule a presentation.