by naomi martin
Advocate staff writer
June 26, 2012
“This is a good time to get you and your family a game plan in the event there’s an emergency.” Veronica Mosgrove, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
Weak steering winds surrounding Tropical Storm Debby made the storm’s intensity and path highly unpredictable Sunday, meteorologists said.
Although the National Hurricane Center deactivated its tropical storm warnings for all of Louisiana about 4 p.m. Sunday, meteorologists still cautioned the storm could suddenly change direction in the coming hours or days, making it impossible for them to rule out the threat to Louisiana.
“This is one of the tougher storms for us to project,” National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Efferson said. “You can’t completely rule it out coming at Baton Rouge.”
On Sunday, the storm was located about 205 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving to the northeast at about 3 mph, Efferson said.
The storm could intensify to a Category 1 hurricane — when sustained winds reach 74 mph — by about noon Thursday, the time it is expected to make landfall at the Florida panhandle near Panama City, Efferson said.
Aside from about a quarter-inch of rain and 15 mph winds, however, the storm is unlikely to impact the metro Baton Rouge area, Efferson said.
High tides in Grand Isle were a couple feet higher than usual on Saturday and Sunday, causing some streets to flood, said Danny Wray, a Grand-Isle fishing guide who provides real-time updates to the National Weather Service.
Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle issued a mandatory evacuation order around noon Sunday for all camper trailers and RVs while the rest of the town was issued a voluntary evacuation order.
To prevent highways from flooding, workers on Sunday laid sandbags along all low-lying levees in Plaquemines Parish, said Guy Laigast, director of the parish’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Sunday to make available any resources local governments might need, such as sandbags, shelter and transportation, said Veronica Mosgrove, communication’s director for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“Regardless of whether or not you are going to be impacted by this storm, this is a good time to get you and your family a game plan in the event there’s an emergency that impacts you down the line,” Mosgrove said.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said he had also declared a state of emergency as a precautionary measure so that in case the storm turns toward Baton Rouge, the city would be reimbursed for heavy damage.
Even though Baton Rouge seems to be in the clear, Holden said his staff spent the day Sunday evaluating the city’s emergency plans, and he urged residents to do the same.
“It was a dry run, so to speak, no pun intended, but it allowed us to go back over our preparation plans for storms just in case one does hit,” Holden said.
During the declared state of emergency, any retailers caught increasing prices above pre-emergency levels will be criminally prosecuted under Louisiana’s price gouging laws, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said in a news release.
Retailers who sell gasoline, hotel and motel rooms, and other commodities are prohibited from raising prices during a state of emergency unless they incur a “verifiable spike” in their own costs, Caldwell said.
Anyone who suspects price gouging during the state of emergency can contact local law enforcement authorities as well as the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 351-4889.