Delta Dispatches: Hurricane Season 2017
Jacques Hebert host solo on today’s show. Joining him is Alek Krautmann Meteorologist, New Orleans/Baton Rouge Forecast Office NOAA National Weather Service to talk about about this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Predictions and how to stay safe this summer. The second guest in today’s show is Mike Steele, Communications Director at Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness-State of Louisiana, here to talk about Hurricane & Disaster Preparedness in South Louisiana.
Below is a transcript of this week’s Delta Dispatches Podcast. Listen to the full recording or subscribe to our feed in iTunes and Google Play.
Jacques: Hello, this is Jacques Hebert and you are listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, it’s people, wildlife and jobs and why restoring it matters. My partner in crime, Simone Maloz is off today, so I’ll be flying solo, but we have a great topic to discuss and some wonderful guests.
But first, I wanted to give you an update on the State’s 2017 Coastal Master plan. So for those of you who may remember, this is the State’s 50-year, 50-billion dollar blueprint for coastal restoration and protection projects. It’s been generated by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and it’s passed through most of the legislature of this plan is gone through the Senate, as well as two house committees, and tomorrow we’re hearing it’ll go up for a vote on the House Floor. So we’re hoping, you know obviously for good news there that we can share with you next week as a reminder. 88% of voters statewide support the coastal master plan and you can still take action at mississippiriverdelta.org/masterplan to let your house member know that the vote in favor is very important to you.
But today, you know, it marks an all too familiar occasion for us here in South Louisiana and New Orleans. It’s the opening of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, today through November 30th, and it’s a time when our region collectively hold our breath and hopes for the best. You know, I remember growing up, my grandparents had blessed palms that they’d get on Palm Sunday and they’d put them in almost every closet in the house to warn off hurricanes, and you know, so we’ve seen unfortunately all too well. We need to do more than hold our breaths, pray and hope for the best. We need to make plans and necessary preparations now, not when the storm is entering the gulf or when we’re been forced to evacuate. So we’re going to talk about that today.
The 2016 season was one of the most active since 2012, 15 named storms including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. We’ve talked about the importance of coastal wetlands and coastal restorations on this show at great length, and why we need to rebuild our coast as a buffer from these storms. I mean, we’ve discussed the multiple lines of defense strategy needed to reduce risks, and everything from the Barrier Islands, and into your marshes, the levees and pumping stations, home elevations, and of course, the last, but ultimately most crucial line of defense in terms of protecting yourself when a storm is coming, and that’s evacuation.
So we’re going to have two guests to talk about this. We’re going to give you some tips and resources that you can use to prepare yourself and your families and your homes as this hurricane season kicks off. So first up on this show, I’m excited to have Alek Krautmann. Alek is a meteorologist with the New Orleans Baton Rouge Forecast Office at NOAA’s National Weather Service here in Louisiana. Welcome to Delta Dispatches, Alek.
Jacques: So before we dive in, can you tell us a little bit about the New Orleans Baton Rouge Forecast Office at NOAA National Weather Service and what you all do there?
Alek: Yeah. Our office is located in Slidell, and our responsibility area covers all of southeast Louisiana in the Mississippi gulf coast, as well as coastal waters out to 60 miles in the gulf. And our job is to forecast the day to day weather and also provide the warnings for hazards weather. Anytime you see weather radar for New Orleans, it is, whether it’s online or on the news, that’s from our National Weather Service Radar in Slidell.
Jacques: And I know, you know there was an important announcement last week that NOAA made in terms of predictions for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which, as we said, starts today. Tell us what they’re predicting for this year.
Alek: That’s right. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season outlook is for a near average to above average season overall, with 11 to 17 main storms across the Atlantic. And it’s a possibility that five to nine of them could become hurricanes.
Jacques: And what are some of the reasons, I guess from meteorological perspective of why they’re predicting a higher or above at normal storm season?
Alek: Yeah, there are a few factors that we look at for the hurricane season. And one, of course, is sea surface temperatures, and it looks like the tropical Atlantic, as well as the Crimean, the sea surface temperatures will be near average or slightly above average. So that’s one factor. Another is that we do not expect a strong El Niño to develop. El Niño is a climate pattern that typically suppresses hurricane activity. So we do not think there would be El Niño, and if it does form, it should be very weak. Too weak to impact hurricanes. And then the third main factor is wind shear, and we’re expecting a near average or maybe slightly below average wind shear across the Caribbean and the tropical waters this summer. And the wind shear would help to blow apart developing storms and so, without wind shear, that leaves to a better environment for storms to develop.
Jacques: Right, and you know, as we all knew, even if there’s a higher than average or above normal prediction for hurricane season, it only takes one making land fall to have a significant difference.
Thankfully here in Louisiana, you know, we’ve been lucky for the most part. I think you and I were kinda going back and forth before the show and you said 2012 Hurricane Isaac was the last kind of major hurricane to hit Louisiana and do significant damage. Why has there been a little bit of a, I guess a break, from these storms as of late.
Alek: It really has just been luck. On average, the historical record says Louisiana had a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane about once every two years, and so we’ve certainly not have that for a while since 2012 like you said. It’s a prep for us every year, and we really need to be ready. There’s still been active years since then. You mentioned earlier, just last year with actually an active hurricane season, but we of course had no Louisiana landfalls. It was really Florida and the Carolinas that had a lot of that activity.
One of the weather patterns that often determines the track of these storms is the Bermuda High Pressure. Maybe you’ve heard weather people talking about their Bermuda High Pressure. If that Bermuda High was set up just a little bit further west last year, some of those flooding Carolina storms would have ended up in the gulf.
Jacques: Right. I mean we never want to see a hurricane make landfall anywhere ideally, regardless of here or Florida, the Carolinas, and I know that NOAA doesn’t make its predictions on about landfall quite yet. I think that comes a little bit later. Is that correct? Why is that and when can we expect to hear more about these predictions?
Alek: That’s true. We do not have a long term outlook for landfalling storms because any individual storm is a rather variable event, and their tracks are also highly variable based on the ongoing weather conditions that week. So we really don’t have any kind of long term outlook for if storms will make landfall or not.
Another reason is that our U.S. coastline is a relatively small area when you compare it to the entire Atlantic basin overall. If you have a chance to check it out on the map, there’s a lot of ocean between here and Africa, so that’s all space for the travel storms and hurricanes.
Jacques: Right. And I guess for you as a meteorologist, and maybe even for the average person living in coastal Louisiana, why are these forecasts important? And how do they help you to kind of do your jobs in months ahead?
Alek: We really use this outlook as a tool to talk about hurricane preparedness. As we just mentioned, we typically see these events on average about once every two years, so we need to be ready every year. You said earlier, it only takes one storm and that couldn’t be more true. One example of that is the 1992 season. It was actually a below, a way below average season overall to the Atlantic, but of course, Louisiana had Hurricane Andrew, and that was the first storm of the year, and so we got knocked by that first storm in 92 in an otherwise below average year. But of course, that was a terrible year for us locally.
Jacques: Yeah, and I mean, I remember being young when Hurricane Andrew hit and we actually evacuated to a hotel in New Orleans surprisingly, but you know, I know there’s been one named storm this year already. Tell us a little bit about tropical storm Arlene, and is it typical to have a named storm this early in the season, or I guess before the season?
Alek: It was an interesting storm. It formed in April, and it was way out in the middle of the Atlantic. We like to call those fish storms. Storms that don’t impact land are called fish storms. And the reason why we have hurricane season from June 1st to November 30th is because that accounts for the vast majority of hurricane activity. 97% of all storms through history have occurred from June to November, but still everyone thought it’s rare, but storms can form outside that season, and even though it’s not common, Arlene was an example of that.
Jacques: And you know, for Louisiana, it’s the typical, I guess, if you had to look at when most storms threaten us is that kind of August-September timeframe.
Alek: Definitely, that’s our key, even historically, August and September, and really you can even narrow it down to the middle of August to the middle of September it’s primetime.
Jacques: Right. So now is definitely the time to prepare although you never know what’s going to happen with an outlier storm.
Alek, I’d like to continue talking to you after the break, I have some more questions, so for those of you who are tuning in, we’re talking about hurricane predictions, and then we’re going to talk about hurricane preparedness. This is Delta Dispatches on WGS, so 9.90 AM.
Jacques: Hello, this is Jacques Hebert and you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, it’s people, wildlife, and jobs, and why restoring it matters. Today marks the first day of the Atlantic Hurricane season and we’re talking about predictions and preparedness so that you and your family can get ready to make sure that you aren’t caught off guard if the storm does threaten coastal Louisiana.
So I’m excited to be joined with Alek Krautmann who is a meteorologist with the New Orleans Baton Rouge Forecast Office at NOAA’s National Weather Service here in Louisiana. So Alek, before the break, we were talking a little bit about the predictions that NOAA released last week predicting an above average or higher than normal season this year. I want to ask though, I mean there hasn’t been a storm since 2012 and you said that’s kind of an anomaly in terms of hitting Louisiana. Have there been developments around frequency and/or intensity of hurricanes?
Alek: So overall, when we look at the hurricane record, and this is looking at the Atlantic basin overall, there have been some higher and lower activity eras. So from about 1995 to 2012, we were actually in a high activity era for hurricanes, and we certainly had many events locally during that time period. And so we’re not too sure what … We’ll have to look at the trend over the past two years, cause there’s a possibility we can actually be going to a slightly lower activity era, but you know, last year was above average and we’re forecasting another above average season this year.
Jacques: Okay, and we’ll have to just keep track and stay vigilant, and obviously we’ll be relying on you and the services your team provides to help there. So on that topic, I mean, what are … Can you describe what hurricane season is like for you all at your office, and what is the type of activity your team will be doing over the coming months to track these storms.
Alek: Sure. Well day to day during the summer, you know, we’re monitoring local weather, but we’re also just monitoring the thunderstorm activity and the gulf of Mexico and across the Caribbean and in the tropics. You know, sometimes these storms, they can form from tropical waves, traveling all the way across the ocean, really from Africa, and they can turn into tropical storms and hurricanes and track for the U.S. But other times, these storms can form much closer to home, like in the Bay of Campeche in the southern gulf of Mexico or even closer. So anytime there’s a cluster of thunderstorms over these warm tropical waters, we are looking at the forecast models and looking at the weather satellite imagery to try to determine the potential threat.
Jacques: In terms of the resources and tools at your disposal, has the technology advanced significantly in terms of tracking and monitoring these weather activity?
Alek: It really has. A huge new tool for us this year is the new NOAA GOES-13 Weather Satellite. We had a weather satellite for decades, but this new one is going to be a better high resolution, even faster updates than ever before, and so we’re really excited to use it these year and to see some of these features and how they develop with so many rapid updates from these new satellite.
Another great tool is always the hurricane hunter, and these are the Air Force and the NOAA Hurricane Reconnaissance aircrafts and they fly into these developing storms, and they even fly into the developed hurricanes, and their information from their radar on the plane, they drop weather instruments through the storm, and so they get measurements from a plane high in the clouds all the way down to the ocean surface and that data feeds our weather model, and it’s given us better and better forecast each year. We’re getting much better at determining where these storms might make landfall.
One thing that’s still difficult even in this day and age is identifying one storm might make that rapid intensification. We’re working on it, we’re always watching, but the quick change and strength is still a challenge that we’re facing even today.
Jacques: And I know, you know, with that improved technology, it often translates into better information and better public knowledge about kind of either the risks and warnings, and so I know some of the tools that are available are storm surge watches and warnings as well as the wind visualization tool related to these storms. So can you tell us a little bit about those public tools and where people can access them.
Alek: Yeah, let’s talk about storm surge for a moment first. As you know, south Louisiana is so vulnerable to storm surge. And really water is the number one killer from a tropical storm or a hurricane. Half of all fatalities are from storm surge, and another quarter of all fatalities are from inland flooding range. Sometimes storms don’t even have to be a trouble storm or hurricane to cause problems. We can look at that Baton Rouge event just last year, last August. And we know this inland hazard all too well.
These storm surge tools, they’re available from the National Hurricane Center. One is when we’re tracking the storm, the website is hurricane.gov, and the new update for this year is the storm surge watch warning like you mentioned. Even though half of all fatalities from a hurricane are due to storm surge, we’ve never before had a warning specifically for that hazard. And so now, this is meant to highlight the threat, it’s to hopefully reinforce the message of evacuating if you’re told to do so. That’s so important when we have a landfalling storm.
Jacques: Right, and I mean, you mentioned the Baton Rouge flooding that affected so many people. You know, that was just a really intense kind of rain event, and we’ve seen recently, as recent news this week, tornadoes on the coast, and tornadoes over the last year. Is it a fair assessment to say that kind of weather has intensified and if so, why is that?
Alek: This year so far, we’ve had an exceptionally active year. It really started this winter and through the spring. This winter we had very warm temperatures over all the gulf of Mexico state, very warm to the winter. And so I think that is of the greatest attribute to why we have such an active winter and spring with these thunderstorms, and there were at times tornadoes like you mentioned. So yeah, this is an active year so far.
Jacques: And I have to ask, ’cause I’m sure it’s a question you get asked a lot, and they also know as part of the prediction released the names of the storms this year, so how do they choose these names?
Alek: That’s actually an international effort. There is the World Meteorological Organization is part of the UN, Part of the United Nations. And an international team of weather folks get together every few years and they review this list and come up with them so we can all stay on the same page and be referring to the same storm. You know, we have a list for these storms in the Atlantic. There’s another set of names for storms in the eastern Pacific and the western Pacific, so it’s not just unique to us. It’s kind of agreed upon worldwide, which is sort of neat.
Jacques: And I have to ask, you know, because we’re about to head into our break and I’ll have to let you go, but I do appreciate you being on, but what are the resources that you know, people should write down, bookmark, have at their disposal and ready so that they’re prepared on this hurricane season.
Alek: Well, our website is weather.gov, that’s for the National Weather Service. The National Hurricane center in Miami, they’re hurricanes.gov, and then the state of Louisiana has a fantastic resource for planning at getagameplan.org. That’s GOHSEP’s page and it has a lot of planning and preparedness information specific to Louisiana.
Jacques: That’s great, and it’s perfect segway into our next segment which is going to be with Mike Steele from the Governor’s Office and Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness or GOHSEP. I have to ask you Alek, you know, what tips or suggestions would you give to people to make sure that they’re prepared, that they stay as safe as possible and they take the right steps to make themselves and their family safe?
Alek: Stack it up on supplies and having a family plan is so important. I mean, talking about your actions during a storm ahead of time goes a long way towards a peace of mind. Hurricanes they’re very stressful events and so planning as much as you can ahead of time will go a long way. And I just want to reiterate that if and when a big storm is forecast, an evacuation might be called for your area, please leave. You know, it can just be not safe with the storm surge threat and with the wind threat. There’s also the flooding rain and even the possibility of tornadoes within these storms. And so we all need to respect Mother Nature and stay aware during hurricane season.
Jacques: That’s great advice and you know, we’re going to get some more details and more resources from GOHSEP in the next segment. Alek I have to ask, you know, growing up here, we always saw images of Nash Roberts, the famous meteorologist, have you checked out a lot of these clips on YouTube and do you have any thoughts there on the legend that is Nash Roberts?
Alek: Yes, I’ve seen that before. I moved down to New Orleans several years ago, and of course. He comes up a lot and tracking hurricanes like that, old school, is still common today. You know, we like the process at work as well.
Jacques: Great. Well thank you so much, Alek Krautmann, meteorologist of New Orleans Baton Rouge Forecast Office at NOAA National Weather Service, and we’re talking about hurricane season on the opening of the season. I really appreciate your time and your insight and please be sure to stay tuned to the information that they are putting out at their local office. Thanks again and we’ll be in touch.
Alek: Thank you. Stay safe this summer.
Jacques: Welcome back. You’re listening to Delta Dispatches. This is Jacques Hebert and we’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, it’s people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters. Today is an important day. You know, it’s the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, and as we discussed in prior segments, it really only takes one storm making landfall to result in serious damage and loss of life as we know all too well here in our area, and which is why it’s so important to make the necessary preparations ahead of time and not wait for when a storm is in the gulf.
So I’m really excited to have our next guest who is an expert on that topic here with me today. Mike Steele is Communications Director at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness or GOHSEP. Welcome to the show Mike.
Mike: Hey, thanks for having us on. I appreciate it.
Jacques: Thank you. I know it’s a really busy time and you’ve had a lot of events and announcements coming out, so I appreciate you’re taking the time to share your knowledge with us. Before we dive in, tell us a little bit about the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Mike: We are kind of the coordinating arm for our state government. We help whenever local municipalities or parishes get to the point with any type of emergency, whether it’d be a hurricane or a smaller weather event, hazmat event, any type of emergency that gets too large for our local partners to handle, we’re kind of the coordinating agency for the state. They can contact us and let’s say maybe they need extra security or maybe they need road signs to help handle a situation. Instead of contacting [inaudible 00:23:24] or National Guard or the State Police. There’s a system that they use to contact us and put their request in, and then we handle coordinating that request and getting it handled in the quickest, most efficient way.
Jacques: And you all do and have a lot of resources around emergency preparedness and disaster preparedness and that’s relevant to the topic today. We’re talking about hurricane season and hurricane preparedness. We heard from Alek earlier in the show, NOAA is forecasting an above average hurricane season, so we’re still kind of at the very early part of the hurricane season, even though we know that a disaster can happen at any point. What should people be doing now to make these necessary preparations so that they’re not scrambling at the end and kind of to help keep their families safe?
Mike: So our catch phrase for our agency when it comes to preparedness is get a game plan. And that basically means know what your emergency plan will be, develop that plan on a day, you know, we call them blue sky days, when you’re not facing an emergency, so that when you do face a situation where you may have to take action, you’ll know what to do. That could be as simple as contacting a relative maybe in another part of the state to say, “Hey, if I have to evacuate, is it okay if we come to your house for a few days?”, or having a route maybe out of the area. One of the main things people really need to do is just maintain their awareness.
Take New Orleans for example, there’s a lot of new people that have moved to New Orleans since the last time we’ve dealt with any serious hurricane threat. We’re talking about likely thousands of people in the metro area, so they need to know that they need to pay attention to the condition, evacuation routes in Louisiana can be very tricky. You can’t really set those plans in stones because of a hurricane or tropical storm changes direction or picks up speed or there’s a number of factors. We may have to alter some of our evacuation plans at the last minute, so maintaining awareness, kind of developing your plans ahead of time, and then obviously the simple things like building an emergency supply kit, having the basics in there. We usually feel that one of the phrases from Florida, “The first 72 is on you.” Try and have enough supplies and food, water, those types of things for all of your family members for at least the first 72 hours.
Jacques: Right. And you know it is important obviously. You know, there are a lot of people who haven’t gone through this before, and so, getting this information out as you all do is such a helpful resource, but you also mentioned that people shouldn’t just prepare during hurricane season, right? That they should be prepared year round. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely, and that is a great question you’re asking. Something that we really want to highlight to the public. So what we practice when it comes to emergencies and the plans that we develop are basically called the all hazards emergency plan. That means, you know, in Louisiana, it doesn’t have to be a hurricane. You could have an event at an industrial site, maybe along the Mississippi river, you could have a hazmat event, you could have a number of things that can happen, that could force you from your home on a moment’s notice.
Just this year alone, going back to probably, you know, February of this year. We haven’t seen some type of weather event in some part of the state, and in some cases, all over the state. So you know, we’re seeing this pattern now where this rain system that we’re dealing with now, flash flooding is definitely a threat. We’ve seen tornado outbreaks over the past couple of months, and so you just never know when that emergency is going to strike.
We use hurricane season and the kick off of hurricane season to kind of reinforce those topics with the public, but we hope that people kind of stay vigilant year round.
Jacques: Right, and Alek was saying how active of a year it’s been from a kind of weather standpoint. And so that is a good point, you know. It’s not just between June and November, we have to be prepared year round.
So I want to get into specifics. You know, in terms of like building your household emergency kit, what are some of the main important items that people should make sure they have on stock at all times?
Mike: So if you go to our website getagameplan.org, you can download a copy of our Louisiana Emergency Preparedness guide. There’s a two page checklist in that guide, and you know, obviously we have the simple things like flashlights, batteries, maybe candles in some cases, food and water for three days, those types of things. There’s a lot of items that people don’t normally think about, copies of your in-terms paperwork, your property insurance, your birth certificate, wedding certificate. Any of those types of important documents. Maybe even put a disc with a lot of your key family photos, those types of things. Maybe put that in one of the Tupperware-type storage containers and put that in an attic or somewhere safe, or someplace where you can grab it if you are forced from your home. Especially if you’re in an area that is prone to flooding or some other problems.
I did hear a unique thing this week as we were talking about hurricane season. You know, I have family in different parts of the state. They said when you get maybe those important documents and everything in place, maybe make another set of copies and send them to a relative or bring them to a relative in another part of the state. That way if your home gets hit or their home gets hit and has some type of major problem, you would have another copy at a different part of the state, so if that’s an option, you know, take advantage of it. But there’s simple steps you can do now that where if you are faced with flooding or some type of hurricane damage, you know, having those documents handy will ease a lot of the factors in recovery and kind of get that process started much quicker.
Jacques: That’s right, and I mean, it’s a great point that you know, it’s not just about preparing to evacuate or evacuating, it’s also making the necessary preparations so you can get your life back in order after the disaster or the storm, and a huge part of that is making sure you have these documents and have access to them. So that is a great point. I also know that GOHSEP has launched an app that is really helpful, right? So you can have it on the go, on your phone wherever you are if you evacuate. Tell us a little bit about the app and what it provides?
Mike: Yeah and this could be very key for people in the southern part of the state. Like we said, it’s hard to set any type of evacuation plans in place until we know exactly what a hurricane for example is going to do. So as those plans change, there’s actually a place on the Get a Game Plan app. It’s an app we’ve had for a while, but we completely revamped it last fall, so we can actually input those evacuation plans on that app, and so that you’ll have access to that. We also put a copy of the checklist and some of the information you need to complete your supply kit. You can find them on the app. And there’s also an “I am safe” tab.
You know, we’ve seen times where cellphones and other forms of communications start to go down for the public, but with this “I am safe” tab, you can pre-program a number of people ahead of time, and let’s say you are forced to evacuate but you can get through to them. You can get that one button and it at least sends a message to them saying, “You know, I’m safe, we may be unable to talk, but I’m safe.”
Jacques: I’m sure you’re used to this and a lot of kinda what we’re trying to do here is not to scare people, but just get people ready, right? And make sure that they’re making the right decisions now and kind of preparations now so that they aren’t, you know, stressed or you know they’re making sure that they can protect themselves if the disaster does strike.
So I know, you know, for like you mentioned, people who have moved to New Orleans since the last big storm, there’s thousands. It might be overwhelming, right? To think about how do I put together a plan, how do I know where to evacuate? You all have a guide, right? To building your own plan on the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Guide?
Mike: Right. Well, and if you go to the Get a Game Plan site you can find information on there about what to do for yourself to protect yourself, your family, your kids. There’s a kid sections. Or your pet, pets are a very important factor when it comes to emergency preparedness. We saw a situation back in 2005 with Katrina. Many people didn’t want to leave the New Orleans area because they couldn’t take their pets with them at the time. There’s a lot of pet plans in place, every parish has some type of plan in place, and people need to contact their parishes and contact their websites. Most of, you know, the metro New Orleans area for example, you have a very strong leadership at the local level, and they have a wealth of information. A lot of times on their websites, on social media, different things you can go to specifically for your parish, and then you can find a lot more information at the state level on our site.
Jacques: Great, and Mike, we’re going to talk a little bit more when we get back from the break. If you’re just joining us, this is Delta Dispatches. I have Mike Steele with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. We’re discussing preparing yourself and your family from disasters and storms.
Hello, this is Jacques Hebert and you’re listening to Delta Dispatches. We’re discussing Louisiana’s coast, it’s people, wildlife and jobs, and why restoring it matters. Today we’re discussing Hurricane Preparedness and we have with us Mike Steele, Communications Director for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. So Mike, welcome back, I know before the break you were talking about pets, and I just want to reiterate that because you mentioned, you know in Katrina obviously, we saw a lot of people were not wanting to evacuate because they didn’t want to leave their pets behind or certain places weren’t taking kind of pets when people did evacuate. So has there been updates since Katrina, and you know, I just want to kind of emphasize, should people not evacuate because of their pets?
Mike: Well, and that is a very important factor. You know, our agency was actually formed as a result of some of the changes that came after Katrina, and some of our people came from first responder jobs before they came to work at GOHSEP. There’s a couple in particular that will tell you just heartbreaking stories about trying to get people out of the hardest hit areas. And people that were in dire need of help, but they would not leave their home because they couldn’t take their dog or their cat or their pet with them. You know, those are important family members to a lot of people nowadays, and you know, it was heartbreaking for them to have to deal with that, but the people just refused to go.
So every parish now has some type of pet plan as part of their requirements. And so again, you know, whatever community you’re in, make sure you check with your parish if your pet plays an important role for you and your families lives, then make sure you know what that pet plan is ahead of time. A lot of times, you evacuate right alongside the pet. There’s situations where the pets can be kept in carriers and may be kept on a bus with you or they’re transported in another vehicle as you’re transported where you stay kind of in contact with them. And so there’s a lot that’s been done in that area, so people need to be aware of it.
Jacques: And that’s great to hear ’cause you’re right, there were so many heartbreaking stories, and you know, it’s true, for so many people, pets are their family. So that’s a great kind of advancement since Katrina. And I want go back to the topic of evacuation. We’re going to pray and hope that this doesn’t happen, but let’s assume a hurricane is kind of threatening Louisiana. What resources should people tune into and pay attention to if they need to evacuate?
Mike: So the first thing is there is a set coastal plan as far as the timing if we have to implement counter-flow. And so a lot of people may not be aware of what counter-flow is. It’s when we basically use the interstate for one direction to get people out of harms away, and we only do it in very dangerous looking conditions, but there’s different things they need to be aware is the media provides these updates and gives the information on the timing. There’s a time for people to leave. You know, the lower coastal region. There’s a time for people to leave the region just above that, and then there’s a time we start to evacuate the New Orleans metro area. And the key is trying to keep the roads as open as possible by staging these types of times for people to leave. You know, we have counter-flow is initiated.
So, you know, there’s different factors if your parish orders an evacuation, you know, they need to be aware of that. Maintaining that awareness is so critical because they may live, you know, maybe someone came from the mid-west where storms roll across but they may only last one day and then they kinda blow to of the area. You know, hurricanes can be very dangerous for several days. As the storm approaches a state and also as it moves inland. So it may be something very different than what they’re used to dealing with and they need to be aware.
One other important factor and I know we talk about this kind of off the air is that businesses need to have a plan. Maybe you’re new moved to the region and started some sort of a smaller business, maybe you have 5, 10, 15 employees, but you need to have a meeting with your employees so that they know if they need to get back in the area if they have some type of critical job for that specific area, how do they get back into the area? You make sure you talk to the parish about the re-entry process for your employees, or if you need to have a place for your employees to gather outside the evacuation zone. Talk about those things ahead of time so that you can have a lot of that worked out.
Jacques: And I know that’s a great point and I know that in the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness guide and on your website I saw a kind of like a checklist and resources for business owners as well, so they should check that out and make a plan as well.
Mike: Absolutely. That is one of the most critical things in there. Some jobs that maybe we don’t think about as being critical in nature, but let’s say you get power restored to a certain parish, but there’s no employees to come back and work at the convenience stores or the gas stations. Well then, that gas station is pretty much wasted at that point because there’s no one there to operate. So you know, it can be everything from a mom and pop type grocery store or gas station or certain things. If you have a critical function for that community, you know, talk about those things ahead of time and make sure your employees and the owners are kind of on the same page.
Jacques: And I want to get into a little bit more specifics. So what about people that may not have the resources either financial or otherwise, a car to evacuate, or you know, people with medical conditions. They are disabled, maybe they’re living alone, they’re elderly. What resources and advice would you give to those people or people who are looking to care for this people?
Mike: So every parish has a plan to deal with that specific part of the population, so they need to check their parish, usually their website. A lot of parishes have a check in where they maybe register the people ahead of time. If you know that evacuation could be difficult for you because of the reasons you mentioned, check in with your parish ahead of time and let them know the issues that you’re facing so that they can be aware of that.
Also, you know, we need to build a lot of resiliency in our community, so if you have maybe friends in your neighborhood and they’re elderly, and the idea of evacuating and possibly being stuck on the interstate for a number of hours is difficult, but you can help that family or that couple evacuate and you have the means to be able to do that, you know, look after each other and check in on each other because the more you do on your own, that frees up more time and capability for the first responders that maybe need to be out there getting someone else.
So you know, it’s important for the public to know their role. Government cannot do everything for everybody in a major catastrophe, it’s just impossible, so the more you can do, and the more you know you responsibilities and your role in all this, the easier it is for everyone.
Jacques: Right, and I mean, we obviously saw so many examples of that kind of community looking out for each other in the Baton Rouge floods and then even going back to Katrina, so it is really important now more than ever for us to look out for our neighbors, be that community, and you know, we’re all in this together.
So in terms of shelters, you know, someone’s looking to plan an evacuation, is there a resource for them where they can see a list of shelters where they can potentially evacuate?
Mike: See, that’s another situation that we almost have to develop a safe zone to a specific event. You know, you have other parts of the country maybe up along the mid-Atlantic. You know, they just maybe have like a 30 mile area that’s kind of like the coastal plain that they just need to get people out of. In order to keep people out of harm’s way dealing with surge and other issues, you know, basically half of our state is at risk, and so it’s hard to set a lot of those plans in place until we see what we’re dealing with ahead of time. Some parishes have a lot of parish to parish agreements where they may have contact with, you know, the Monroe area or the Shreveport area, and they have pre-selected sites that a lot of the people in that parish will go to, but that’s another reason why it’s important to check in with your parish to see if those options are out there.
Mike: We also have a mega shelter in the Alexandria area, but that’s to deal with a lot of the people that didn’t have a lot of options or maybe deal with medical issues, but it’s not a general population type shelter. So it is important for you to know what your area has available and what options are available so that you can help and develop your plan.
Jacques: All right, and one more time, Mike, we’re almost out of time, so what is the website again?
Mike: It’s getagameplan.org.