State and federal officials met Wednesday to go over hurricane preparedness plans in Baton Rouge just as the National Hurricane Center increased the possibility that a low-pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean could become a tropical storm in the next two days.
The area of low pressure was located about 850 miles east of the Windward Islands and is moving west-northwestward at about 20 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s afternoon tropical weather
outlook. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center had designated the area of disturbed weather Tropical Depression 5.
At a news conference at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, officials urged state residents to prepare for possible storms this season.
“We’re getting to the peak of hurricane season. August and September are critical to us,” GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis said.
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of State Police, said a lot has changed in the way the state prepares for hurricane season since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
One of the most important changes is the statewide communications system that will allow responding emergency agencies to continue to communicate with each other during the response.
“No other state can communicate on one system that has redundancy built in,” Edmonson said. “The most critical thing we can do is communicate.”
Another change is the pre-positioning and organizing of in-state shelter locations and point-to-point sheltering that has communities work with each other so in case of a disaster, members of a community can stay together at a shelter location out of harms way, Davis has said.
Currently, there are 10,100 general shelter spots at state shelters, 11,910 spots at various shelters run by parish and local governments, and 1,400 medical special needs shelter spots. The state also has agreements with neighboring states that could provide up to 22,500 shelter spots, but Davis said sheltering Louisiana residents out of state would be a last resort.
Information and tips about how to get a hurricane plan and kit together are available from the city-parish and state at: http://www.getagameplan.org/ and http://redstickready.com/.