Friday, May 29, 2015
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH – June 1st marks the start of hurricane season and residents are strongly encouraged to finalize preparations for their families and businesses. This includes finalizing family/business plans, checking supply kits, replacing old batteries, and determining the best evacuation route.
Residents should look for hurricane brochures in their utility bills next month or visit the parish website at sjbparish.com or www.getagameplan.org 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 (NOAA) has issued a 70 percent likelihood of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a below-normal season is likely (70 percent), there is a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. Additional information and new forecasting terms are available for review at noaanews.noaa.gov.
Tropical Storm Ana, the first named storm this year, has hit the east coast and the river region has experienced a number of severe weather events producing hail, damaging winds, and street flooding. “While we are pleased that the forecast is for fewer storms this year, it only takes one storm to wreak havoc on a community, therefore preparation is the key,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “This weekend, residents have an opportunity to purchase hurricane supplies with exemptions from local and state sales tax on the first $1,500.00 of purchases. The combination of state and local tax exemptions results in a 9% savings.”
Robottom, her staff and partner agencies remain committed to hurricane preparedness and outreach efforts to assist residents in their preparedness efforts. Emergency responders and department heads have ongoing interactions with state agency representatives during weather events and other emergencies and infrastructure improvements remain a priority.
Prepositioned contracts and agreements for transportation, sheltering, pets, generators, disaster recovery, and a last resort shelter are in place while staff continues to meet to review emergency plans and procedures. The EOC staff has attended numerous training exercises held by GOHSEP, the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center and neighboring parishes. In an effort to monitor rainfall and water levels, rain gauges have been installed at fire stations and water plants throughout the parish in addition to Lake Pontchartrain and Lac Des Allemands. “Having gauges at these locations allows us to monitor rainfall and water levels that may pose a threat to our community,” said Jobe Boucvalt, Public Safety Director. “Weather bug has also been installed in the Emergency Operations Center which provides ongoing weather updates at our fingertips.”
This Administration continues to design and construct projects to improve drainage and utilities systems. Interim flood protection measures are in place through a cooperative effort with the Unites States Army Corp of Engineers, Pontchartrain Levee District to protect and supplement water infrastructure during emergencies. Back-up systems for water in LaPlace, additional generators, elevated electrical components, and preventive maintenance on the water system have been completed. To address damage caused by Hurricane Isaac and previous hurricanes, twenty-four submersible pumps are being installed at twelve lift stations and electrical components are being relocated to prevent future flooding.
In addition to ongoing maintenance and spraying of internal canals and ditches, over 167,368 linear feet of canals and 167,368 linear feet of culverts (catch basins blown out through CES) have been cleaned. The Public Works Department completed a drainage project to address historical flooding in the Red Bud and Pine St. area. After identifying numerous blockages involving the railroad, Canadian National Railroad will clean and install a number of culverts and culvert extensions under the railroad. By working with the Department of Transportation and Development, Interstate-10 was elevated approximately 15 inches to eliminate a low point in the roadway and the ramps on Belle Terre Blvd were elevated to prevent ramp flooding during high water events. Other preparations include conducting preparedness workshops for residents and businesses, conducting drills with essential personnel, and finalizing pre-positioned contracts and agreements.
Residents continue to be encouraged to sign up to receive personalized messages to their phones and email addresses by visiting sjbparish.com 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 and Communications staff are available to conduct Hurricane Preparedness presentations for the public, town hall and neighborhood meetings by request. Please call 652-2222 to schedule a presentation. On Monday, June 1st, President Robottom will join the US Army Corp of Engineers, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other Parish Presidents from the region and state agency representatives for a joint press conference to discuss hurricane preparations and plans for the upcoming season. More information from this conference will be posted on the Parish website. Tune into local news stations to receive updated information on hurricane season.