La. residents urged to prep for disasters

A huge tornado similar to the one that devastated Moore, Okla., on Monday could happen in Louisiana and residents should be prepared for it and other disasters, especially with the Atlantic hurricane season fast approaching, city-parish officials said Tuesday.

Between 1991 and 2010, Louisiana had an average of 37 tornadoes reported each year, according to information from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.

By comparison, Texas has an average of 155 tornadoes a year, Oklahoma, 62, Mississippi, 43, and Arkansas, 39.

“What happened yesterday in Oklahoma could happen here,” Mayor-President Kip Holden said during a news conference Tuesday at the Mayor’s Office of Homeland and Security Preparedness.

“East Baton Rouge has at least one confirmed tornado every year,” Holden said.

According to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, Louisiana is a member of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact or EMAC, a state to state mutual aid agreement to provide resources.

GOHSEP has offered Louisiana assistance to Oklahoma for search and rescue etc. if needed, according to a statement on GOHSEP’s Facebook page.

Preparedness for a possible tornado and hurricanes, means asking questions ahead of time, such as how to contact family and friends after a disaster passes, are important documents safe and easily accessible, and how to react if and when a disaster is approaching, Holden said.

In south Louisiana, where basements or underground shelters are rare, people need to know to take shelter in an interior room, closet or in the bathtub with a mattress pulled over top of the person if a tornado warning is issued, he said.

According to information from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, there isn’t really a “tornado season” like there is for the Atlantic hurricane season. Instead, regions of the United States may get more tornadoes annually whenever warm and cold air masses collide.

“Most of the early spring tornadoes in the U.S. tend to occur in the Southeast and South Central regions. Gulf States, such as Mississippi and Louisiana are the frequent recipients of tornadoes from February to April. Late spring tornadoes generally spread a bit farther north, often into Kansas, Nebraska and the Tennessee Valley region,” according to the National Climatic Data Center’s website.

Speakers on Tuesday said now is the time to assemble a disaster kit, including things like a battery-powered weather radio, blankets, food, water, medicines and other items. Many speakers, including Baton Rouge Fire Department Chief Ed Smith, emphasized the importance of taking responsibility for one’s personal safety and preparedness before and after a disaster.

Louisiana residents also are encouraged to stock up on disaster preparedness items this weekend.

State law provides for an annual state sales tax holiday on sales of hurricane-preparedness items or supplies made on the last Saturday and Sunday of each May. During the two-day annual holiday, tax-free purchases are authorized on the first $1,500 of the sales price of each of specific items.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.