La. police, fire personnel face 2nd storm

State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said Monday that he and state Fire Marshal Butch Browning plan to travel to New Jersey on Wednesday to help local officials assess post-Hurricane Sandy damage.

Edmonson said he and Browning will try to determine if the Louisiana Department of Public Safety will send more personnel or assistance to the storm-ravaged area.

However, another storm — a nor’easter packing heavy rain and wind gusts of 50-60 mph — is headed for the area Wednesday, which could delay Edmonson’s and Browning’s travel plans and threaten more flooding and power outages in New York and New Jersey.

Sandy killed more than 100 people in 10 states after it made landfall Oct. 29, and about 1.4 million homes and businesses remained in the dark about a week afterward.

State Police announced Sunday that 25 troopers left Louisiana around 3 a.m. Sunday and headed to New Jersey to assist local emergency officials with security and public safety, Edmonson said.

The troopers will be in New Jersey for an eight-day minimum but were asked by New Jersey authorities to prepare for a possible 30-day deployment, Edmonson said Monday.

“What we all try to do, and what we did so well in Louisiana (after the hurricanes), is return to normalcy,” Edmonson said. “That’s what we’re going to try to help them get to.”

Edmonson made his comments at a news conference announcing that the “Spirit of Louisiana,” a fire truck created through post-9/11 fundraising efforts, would be sent to Long Island, N.Y., to help with recovery efforts. The truck and crew departed after the news conference.

New Jersey State Police requested help through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which calls for other states to provide resources during a disaster, Edmonson has said.

Edmonson said New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes greeted the 25 state troopers at the U.S. Army’s Fort Dix in New Hanover Township, N.J., about 1 a.m. Monday. The troopers then deployed into barrier areas of New Jersey around 6 a.m.

Edmonson said state officials discussed emergency plans with New York and New Jersey officials long before Sandy hit.

New Jersey State Police were among the first law enforcement agencies to assist Louisiana authorities with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Edmonson said. Fuentes himself made a visit to Louisiana at that time.

“When the call came forward from Col. (Joseph) D’Amico from New York (State Police) and Fuentes from New Jersey, it was a simple decision to make” to send troopers to the Northeast, Edmonson said.

Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Kevin Davis is planning to travel to New York on Tuesday, GOHSEP spokeswoman Christina Stephens said.

Browning said New York’s request for the “Spirit of Louisiana” truck was made over the weekend, and plans to ship it there were finalized late Sunday.

The truck is built to New York City fire truck specifications, Browning said.

“The city there has lost many of its fire apparatuses,” Browning said. “Much of the city is still not functioning as far as electricity and basic services.”

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Louisiana firefighters began a fundraising campaign that generated more than $1 million for firefighting equipment for the New York Fire Department, Browning said.

The centerpiece of the campaign was the “Spirit of Louisiana,” which was the first truck built using the money raised, Browning said.

The truck was delivered to New York in December 2001 and stayed there until 2005, when it was returned to Louisiana for Katrina relief efforts.

The truck was used in Louisiana until it was decommissioned in 2010, Browning said. It has been used mostly in parades since then.

The “Spirit of Louisiana” was inspected one final time Monday before it began its long journey to Long Island.

“It has been a centerpiece of the pride of the citizens of Louisiana,” Browning said. “The call this weekend for this truck to respond is certainly bittersweet, but it is certainly (within) Louisiana’s ability to immediately respond.”

The Associated Press and The Advocate Capitol news bureau contributed to this report.