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Nov 9, 2009 2:52 PM by sleonard

Governor Bobby Jindal Says State Preparing for Tropical Storm Ida

BATON ROUGE - Today, Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference, following a meeting of the State's Unified Command Group, which assembled to prepare state response efforts for the threat of Tropical Storm Ida.

Governor Jindal said, "We saw this storm move up to hurricane status over the weekend and thankfully it has dissipated some and was downgraded to a tropical storm today. We are still in a state of emergency and several parishes have closed schools today, due to the threat of flooding in lower coastal areas in the Southeast part of the state. All of our state response agencies are operating on a 24-hour alert system, as we continue to monitor the storm throughout today. We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. Just as we did during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike last year, we know we need to be fully ready to respond to any emergency situation that arises from this storm event. We are in constant contact with parish emergency leaders on the ground and will assist them in any way needed. Our absolute first priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and the protection of their property."

The Governor said that the most recent update from the National Weather Service reported that the storm is continuing to weaken as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico. Maximum sustained winds are now at 70 miles per hour, down from 80 miles per hour earlier this morning. The storm is expected to continue to move north-northwest and make landfall either late this evening or in the early morning hours along the Florida-Alabama border. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the Southeast portion of Louisiana, from Grand Isle through New Orleans to the Mississippi state line, including areas around Lake Pontchartrain and the Northshore.

The tide related to the storm is expected to be three to five feet above normal. Rivers are expected to be two to four feet higher than normal. Rainfall should be moving into the Southeast area through this morning, with two to three inches expected today. Tropical storm winds will mainly impact the area east of I-55 to Houma, and higher gusts are possible in lower Plaquemines through St. Bernard parishes. There may be localized power outages due to falling tree branches.

Weather is expected to improve this evening. Orleans Parish is expected to get tropical storm force winds in the early afternoon, from noon to around 3 PM. Squalls and rain bands will also move through that area and tides will be one to two feet above normal. They will level out today by later this afternoon or tonight and tides will be three to five feet above normal. The Army Corps said they are confident that the levees in the area can handle this amount of rising water.

The Governor said Louisiana State Police (LSP) is monitoring evacuation routes in case they are needed and DOTD has also cleared evacuation routes of any construction.

Parish Emergency Updates

The Governor said ten parishes have declared a "state of emergency", including: St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Washington, Vermillion, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. Bernard, St. James, Tangipahoa, and Lafourche.

The Division of Administration has announced that state employees do not need to report to work today in Lafourche, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes, and in Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish. All agency heads are responsible for determining essential personnel who should remain on duty or those who should report to alternative work sites if necessary.

Several schools are closed in Southeast Louisiana, including all schools in Orleans Parish, Lafourche, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parish. Also, all Grand Isle schools are closed in Jefferson Parish, in addition to the archdiocese schools. St. Charles Parish, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany, have announced early dismissal of their schools today.

Four parishes have announced voluntary evacuations. St. Bernard Parish has announced a voluntary evacuation for those areas outside the hurricane protection system, beginning today. The Parish is calling through their special needs citizens to assist them with their evacuation efforts.

Plaquemines Parish has announced a voluntary evacuation for the area from Conoco Phillip to Venice on the West Bank, and White Ditch to Bohemia on the East Bank. The Belle Chase Auditorium on 8398 Hwy 23 opened at 8 AM to take in evacuees in Plaquemines. Those needing assistance in evacuation there can call 504-274-2470.

Lafourche Parish has called for a voluntary evacuation for Port Fourchon. Businesses in that area are expected to release workers early today. Jefferson Parish has called for a recommended evacuation of all RV Sites and camper trailers in Grand Isle.


Assistance from State Response Agencies

The National Guard has a liaison embedded in emergency offices in St. Charles, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. Tangipahoa requested and has received 52,000 sandbags from Camp Villere, which is located near Covington. Sandbags have also been made available to residents in Terrebonne Parish and can be picked up at the Montegut Fire Station, the Little Caillou Fire Station, the Pointe Aux Chenes Fire Station, and the Bobtown Bridge Fire Station. The Guard also activated its Joint Operations Center to 24-hour operations and its Tactical Awareness Center. The Guard has an engineer assessment team, ten boat teams, search and rescue teams and high water vehicles on standby.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security has activated the State EOC to a Level III with 24-hour operations and regular communication with parish emergency centers.

Wildlife and Fisheries is prepositioning assets along the expected path of the storm and placed all their agents on high alert. There are also around 112 agents, 100 boats, and four airboats on standby.

The Department of Agriculture has activated their incident management team and they are on standby to respond to any threats to agriculture.

Louisiana State Police put all troopers in Region 1 (New Orleans area) on standby and inspected all communication towers, and made sure fuel levels were full in generators. State Police tactical equipment, including satellite communications, is ready for deployment.

The Department of Corrections does not have plans for any evacuations. They will shelter all inmates in place at this time.

The Department of Transportation has suspended all construction projects in Southeast Louisiana and is working to ensure all bridges remain passable.

The Department of Social Services and the Department of Health and Hospitals are monitoring hospitals and nursing homes for those with special needs that parishes may not be able to assist.

The State Fire Marshal has three response teams on standby. One team in Region 1 in Southeast Louisiana has 25 personnel, ten boats and two pumps.

Levee Monitoring

The Governor said some seepage has been reported along the Braithwaite Levee, so the Caenarvon Canal was closed there. In Grand Isle, there is overtopping along the Susie Street levee, and the state stands ready to assist local emergency response personnel on the ground, as needed.

The Governor said that the state has also offered assistance to other states along the Gulf Coast, if they need emergency resources the state does not use to respond to the effects of the storm in Louisiana.


HEALTH WARNINGS

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals advises people to avoid contact with floodwaters associated with the storm. Residents of areas affected by flooding are advised to keep the following tips in mind if flooding has occurred in their area:

o Don't Wade or Swim in Contaminated Floodwaters. There is always the possibility that heavy rains or other major storm activity will cause sewage treatment systems (both community and residential) to fail.

o Therefore, residents should not deliberately enter floodwater.

o It is also important to keep an eye on children and make sure they do not attempt to swim in a flooded area. Do not ever, under any circumstances, drink or ingest floodwater.

o If people do come in contact with floodwater, they should bathe and wash their clothes with hot, soapy water immediately afterward.

o Septic Tanks Could be Affected by Floodwater. Health officials say that flooding will keep septic systems and other residential sewage disposal systems from operating correctly until the floodwaters recede.

o Go onto www.DHH.la.gov for more health information on floodwaters or GetAGameplan.org.

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