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Reflecting on President Biden’s visit, Hotard explains rationale for voluntary evacuation order

LAPLACE — Parish President Jaclyn Hotard joined U.S. President Joe Biden and his Administration on a walk through the Cambridge neighborhood in LaPlace last Friday to survey devastation caused by Hurricane Ida.

During the tour, Hotard emphasized the immediate and urgent need for power, water, communications and financial assistance for impacted residents. She also appreciated Biden calling out insurance companies for distinguishing between mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders when it comes to approving lodging reimbursement.

Some have questioned why a mandatory evacuation was not in place for St. John the Baptist Parish before Hurricane Ida ravaged the River Region with strong winds and coastal flooding on August 29. Hotard reminded residents that Ida was originally projected to strike further to the west, and by the time the track changed, there was no time to safely get residents out of St. John Parish.

“The parish has a responsibility to get residents out with a mandatory evacuation. With no contraflow, we could have ended up in a situation where we had residents who needed us for assistance to get out stuck in buses on the Interstate with 100 mph winds. We could have lost many, many lives,” Hotard said. “Safety is the No. 1 priority. We asked people, if you have the means to leave, leave. We opened our shelter a day early so people who couldn’t evacuate could escape the storm and be safe.”

Hotard agreed with Biden’s message to insurance companies.

During his visit to LaPlace, Biden said, “No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation or road trip. Folks, they left their home because they felt that they had to flee the risk of death. There’s nothing voluntary about that. I’m calling on private insurance companies, don’t hide behind the fine print and technicality. Pay what you owe your customers cover temporary housing costs and natural disasters and help those in need.”

Hotard was thankful that no one lost their lives to the incredibly dangerous Category 4 storm. With the parish’s most precious asset protected, St. John can begin to move forward and heal from Hurricane Ida.

“We can replace property. We can replace cars. I’m in the same boat; I lost my home and I lost my car, but we’ve got our lives, and we can build back better,” Hotard said.