EBR faces ‘tough day’ as it passes
BY FAIMON A. ROBERTS III, michelle millhollon and Steven Ward
Advocate staff writers
August 28, 2012
- Mandatory evacuation, curfew set in Assumption
- Baker, Zachary set curfews
- Video: First effects of Hurricane Isaac
- Florida Parishes brace for storm surge and heavy rain
- Curfews imposed in Florida Parishes
- Ascension drainage canals pumped down as Isaac approaches
- Photos: Baton Rouge, New Orleans areas brace for Isaac
- Isaac may disrupt The Advocate’s newspaper delivery in south La.
- BR residents make last-minute preps
- Katrina memories shape preparations
Hurricane Isaac took aim at southeast Louisiana on Tuesday as Gov. Bobby Jindal warned residents to prepare for hours of high winds and drenching rains.
“This is a serious storm. It’s a slow-moving storm. It’s important that our folks take it seriously,” Jindal said during a news conference at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Most areas affected by the hurricane will be battered by tropical storm winds for 24 hours, Jindal said.
Mayor-President Kip Holden warned that East Baton Rouge Parish residents face a tough day Wednesday.
“The capital city is now in the zone of the greatest threat of flooding rain,” he said. “We are expecting tropical storm-force winds for a period of 12-18 hours with gusts over 60 miles per hour.”
In addition, rain totals of six to eight inches are likely, with as much as 10-12 inches possible, Holden said.
David Guillory, the interim director of the parish’s Department of Public Works, said those who were flooded during Gustav should expect to be flooded again.
“We anticipate localized flooding in many parts of the parish,” Guillory said. “There’s a large amount of water that will be traveling the upper Amite River basin, and a lot of that water we won’t see until Friday, maybe even Saturday.”
There had been an unusually high demand for sand and sandbags, Guillory said.
“In some places, the sand was gone as soon as we dropped it,” Guillory said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White said extra officers were on the streets and urged residents to make safety their highest priority.
“During the storm, please remain sheltered,” Gautreaux said.
As of Tuesday evening, no parishwide curfew had been declared for East Baton Rouge Parish. However, curfews were ordered in the cities of Baker and Zachary, Livingston Parish and parts of Tangipahoa Parish.
“During the day, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., we will have 400 officers patrolling the city of Baton Rouge,” White said. “During the night, over 300 officers will be patrolling.”
Gautreaux said he reassigned deputies from other duties to patrol during the storm.
White and Gautreaux cautioned that response times may be slower while Isaac is over Baton Rouge.
“During the storm, we will not respond to everyday calls,” Gautreaux said. “We will not put our people or our deputies at risk.”
White said Baton Rouge Police will prioritize calls and respond to the most urgent first.
Crews from Entergy and Demco were on emergency footing, representatives of both companies said.
Demco crews will work until sustained winds reach 35 miles per hour; Entergy crews will stop working when winds hit 30 mph.
“Then we have to pull our buckets down,” said Sheila Pounders, an Entergy spokeswoman. Crews will resume work once winds drop below 30 mph, she said.
Both companies said additional crews from companies in other states were preparing to travel to Louisiana to help restore power in the aftermath of the storm.
Daniel and Guillory urged residents to call 311 to report any storm-related non-emergency issues.
DPW is preparing to pick up debris and clear roads as soon as the storm passes, Guillory said.
“Our debris contractors are mobilizing,” Guillory said. “We expect to being damage assessment Thursday and have trucks rolling on Friday, depending on weather.”
All flights departing or arriving at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport on Wednesday were canceled, Airport Director Anthony Marino said.
City officials said lessons of previous hurricanes are being applied in preparing for Isaac.
“In many ways we are better prepared because of the lessons we learned during Katrina and Gustav,” said William Daniel, Holden’s chief administrative officer. “We are absolutely as prepared as we can be.”
Holden asked former chief administrative officer Walter Monsour to advise city-parish officials on dealing with Hurricane Isaac and its aftermath. Monsour helped guide the city’s responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav.
Across Louisiana, 41 parishes have declared emergencies. Nearly 30 school districts are closed.
Jindal rattled off a series of statistics, outlining prisoner transfers, shelter availability and nursing home evacuations.
A small number of patients evacuated from hospitals in Luling, Gretna and New Orleans. Eight nursing homes conducted full or partial evacuations.
- Pods, each capable of feeding 5,000 people, are stationed in north and south Louisiana.
- Roughly 1,400 people are in shelters, with numbers slowly rising.
- More than 7,000 beds are available at state-run shelters, not including beds for people with medical problems.
- 4,158 National Guardsmen have been activated.
- More than 2,000 inmates have been evacuated from Orleans, Terrebonne, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
Property damage assessment flights will begin Friday, the governor said.
Jindal asked the Pentagon to allow activated National Guardsmen to receive military retirement points, health insurance and disability protection while supporting the hurricane relief efforts.
The governor also suspended licensing requirements for emergency medical technicians, allowing EMTs from other states to work in Louisiana.
Advocate staff writer
contributed to this report.