Preparation essential this hurricane season

Gina Zanutto

How is your “hurricane-preparedness plan” coming along? Not sure what that is? Don’t have one?

“We want residents to be aware of all going on when it comes to a hurricane,” said Russell Graham, public information officer for Louisiana State Police Troop A. “If they know the differences, they can better prepare and get out of the way if they need to.”

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, and nearly 97% of all named storms were formed within this period, according to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

The majority of hurricanes and other tropical storms occur throughout August and October. Categories 1 and 2 are classified as “minor” hurricanes, whereas categories 3, 4 and 5 are considered “major,” based on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of wind intensity. Winds within categories 3, 4 and 5 can exceed 155 mph.

A hurricane watch indicates that storm conditions in the area are possible within the next 36 hours. However, a hurricane warning admonishes that conditions are likely or expected in the specific area within the following 24 hours.

“We don’t want people stuck on roads when a hurricane hits,” Graham said. “Safety is our top priority.”

If evacuation orders are not issued, it is important that individuals still remain indoors, fuel vehicles, board or tape windows, turn cooling devices to coldest settings, store drinking water and canned/non-perishable goods, listen to radio/television reports and review emergency plans with family members.

“The biggest defense against a hurricane is preparedness,” Graham said.

Evacuation orders are not to be taken lightly. This issuance is presented by state or parish officials and is effective immediately.

“It is essential that residents keep three days worth of supplies like water, food, batteries,” said Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez. “We send a list out to citizens itemizing what they should keep, but typically three days of everyday essentials can hold them over until outside aid arrives.”

Family members in the area must be aware of an agreed upon evacuation destination and the means to arrive there. Emergency supplies, warm and waterproof clothing, blankets and sleeping bags, and other necessities, such as prescription medications should be taken. Informing family members or close friends outside the affected region is also advised.

“Generally, people can get with their vets to find a place to keep pets, too,” Martinez said. “However, taking your pet with you is the best thing; you certainly shouldn’t abandon it. You should make sure you have enough pet food for at least three days.”

Contraflow evacuation is classified as a “last resort” by the Louisiana State Police. This method reverses the lanes of traffic that would normally lead into a particular area, and instead directs them away from the areas anticipated to sustain water or suffer heavy wind damage.

“Contraflow is the evacuation of last resort,” Graham said. “Even with contraflow, we have improved that plan substantially, but it is still a problem.”

After a storm, an authoritative source will analyze damage, subsequently declaring when it will be safe for individuals and families to return to portions of a town or city Makeshift medical treatment facilities and other modern conveniences are often established if previous facilities are no longer viable as a result of the storm. Population centers not evacuated and not heavily damaged are able to provide products and services.

“We keep a list of all elderly patients and other needy people, and we go out and help make sure they are taken care of first,” Martinez said. “We have one of the best elderly support systems in the state. I can assure you if there is a hurricane threat in Ascension Parish, we will be ready.”

Further information prior to a storm can be found at www.getagameplan.org and www.lsp.org. For information regarding immediate road closures or evacuation road conditions, dial *577 or 511.