Archive for June, 2010

Alex reaches hurricane strength

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Tropical Storm Alex became Category 1 Hurricane Alex at around 9:50 p.m. Tuesday and continued it’s trek toward the Texas-Mexico border.

Hurricane warnings were in place from South Padre Island to the mouth of the Rio Grande, according to the National Weather Service.

Alex had sustained winds of 75 mph and was moving at around 9 mph.

Landfall is expected this afternoon or evening. AccuWeather forecasters say Alex could still reach Category 2 status.

Category 2 hurricanes have wind speeds of between 96 and 110 miles per hour.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has declared a state of emergency for 19 coastal counties, but no evacuation notice was issued, according to the official state government website, texas. gov.

For the Lake Area, weather service forecaster say Alex will be dumping about two to five inches of rain.

Alex is the first named storm of the 2010 season and the first June hurricane since 1995, according the National Weather Service.

According to the Cameron Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, the impacts of Hurricane Alex to Cameron Parish would be mostly above-normal high tide.

High tides today and Thursday could run about three to four feet above normal.

No evacuations are planned at this time, but residents in low-lying area should monitor the weather very closely.

Rainfall of up to six inches in isolated areas can be expected of the next couple days.

Wave action is expected to affect La. 82 in areas from Holly Beach west. Residents are urged not to drive through water as it may contain large debris and is going to be salt water, not fresh water.

Lower Cameron Parish residents are urged to have their plans in place and be prepared to act on a moment’s notice if conditions change.

link: http://bit.ly/a1KwMk

June 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Expect active season

It’s that time of year; what’s your game plan?

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

State officials were in Southwest Louisiana on Monday to meet with local sheriffs to discuss what is expected to be a busy hurricane season.

“We mainly want to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said after speaking with state police head Col. Mike Edmonson.

The first named storm, Alex, entered the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday as a tropical depression, but has since developed into a tropical storm with winds near 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen with this storm, and if it stays on the current path, we’ll still be dealing with some lingering effects,” Mancuso said.

Edmonson said he is spending the week talking to sheriffs and emergency preparedness directors in coastal parishes.

“Right now, there’s only a 5 to 10 percent chance the storm will hit this area, but we like to be proactive,” he said.

“We’re already seeing a deviation from the norm with a storm this early,” said Mark Cooper, director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“Residents need to make sure they have an evacuation plan for their families and elderly neighbors.”

“No matter what, don’t wait until the last minute,” Mancuso said. “My philosophy is, ‘If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.’ Once it’s in the Gulf, there’s a chance it can come this way.”

“When we start ordering evacuations, residents need to also have a set place or places to go and make sure they have food and water in their car,” Edmonson said.

Cooper said he’s confident the entire state is prepared for a busy season, even with the oil spill. He said officials have met with BP and the U.S. Coast Guard to review emergency plans.

Lessons learned
State and local officials learned much during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Mancuso and Edmonson.

“Rita showed us our vulnerabilities on fuel and power,” Mancuso said. “We set up our own fuel supply, and for power we have backups for the backups.”

For evacuations, Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness officials have specific shelters for residents, whom they transport by bus.

“We will also be sending a 10- to-12-man team to those shelters, so it’s less of a burden on the local authorities,” Mancuso said.

Cooper said state officials have increased shelter capacity from 11,000 in 2009 to about 24,000 statewide, as well as set up shelter agreements in other states.

“Our Get A Game Plan website has instructions and video on how to put together an evacuation plan,” Cooper said. He also explained the Louisiana Earth Google map feature. It was initially tracking the oil spill, but Cooper said it also has evacuation routes and shelter locations.

“Since 2005, we have been using state and federal money to make sure all first responders are on the 700 MHz digital radio system,” Edmonson said.

The system allows for statewide communication between most first responders and is considered more reliable during disasters.

SW La. does it right
Edmonson and Cooper both praised Southwest Louisiana residents for their actions during hurricane season.

“I’ve said it before: If you want to look at the way to do things right, look to Southwest Louisiana,” Edmonson said. “We could have initiated the contraflow during Gustav and Ike, but there was no reason. People left when we told them to.”

He said that initiating contraflow requires a lot of manpower and can require about 300 men in Southwest Louisiana if Texas evacuees must travel through.

“During the last storm, they left it up to us to call it, and I constantly meet with the mayors and police chiefs to get their input,” Mancuso said.

He said he always reminds residents that there is a point when officers are pulled off the streets because of weather, and that people who stay during a mandatory evacuation may not be able to get help.

“It’s a bad feeling because our job is to help,” Mancuso said. “But we just need people to trust that we’re going to protect this community and sometimes that means telling them to leave.”


Online: http://www.getagameplan.org; http://www.laearth.la.gov.
To see the Get a Game Plan public service announcement, go to
www.americanpress.com

link: http://bit.ly/dp5gCs

June 29, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Fix it first, then they will come

Residents say address present needs before selling north LC
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

North Lake Charles resident Doris Minard had a straightforward message for the redevelopment authority Monday: “Before you invite company to your house, you want to clean up first,” she said.

“The talk about bringing businesses to the area is a good thing, but we have a lot of areas that need to be cleaned up.”

Minard and other residents talked about drainage problems, open ditches and areas near schools that lack sidewalks. She said she has to call almost every month about overgrown vacant lots near her home on Mayo Street.

Theresa Baird agreed and expressed her hope that development extends beyond the areas along Interstate 10. Her biggest concern on cleanup was the number of homes that need to be repaired or demolished.

Authority member Rick Richard agreed with the residents, saying most things don’t get done unless a lot of residents complain.

“It’s a goofy system to me that it’s on the citizen’s back to make the call,” Richard said. “My theory is there should be someone riding around looking for these things.”

Richard said the property issues in north Lake Charles stem mainly from people who own property but don’t live in the area.

“People who own property and live in Lake Charles take care of their property,” he said.
The redevelopment auth–ority members said they would take the residents’ concerns to City Council members.

In their third meeting, board members also continued housekeeping duties, such as setting up a standardized system to add residents’ concerns to the agenda and making meeting minutes available.

Chairman Willie King said the board will meet with a consulting group July 1, along with George Swift with The Chamber/Southwest Louisiana.

The group will show development plans from other cities it has worked with.

Richard said he plans to bring a study done by the Army Corps of Engineers that outlines light manufacturing, along with residential and commercial development, in north Lake Charles.

link: http://bit.ly/aW1Saq

June 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hurricane warning for Texas, Mexico

*published June 29, 2010
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Tropical Storm Alex slowly strengthened overnight and is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane today, according the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

Overnight, Alex was in the Gulf of Mexico about 500 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, with sustained winds of 65 mph.

Category 1 hurricanes have winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

A Hurricane warning remains in place along the Texas-Mexico border and current projections have the storm making landfall near the border.

With it’s current path, Cameron officials said they only expect minor problems.

“Right now, the weather service is telling us we’ll get an extra foot or two (on our tides) with this current path,” said Clifton Hebert, Cameron Parish emergency preparedness director.

Hebert said officials are on 24-hour call because they know how quickly the situation can change with a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’ll be up early this morning checking on Alex again, and if anything changes, we’re ready to regroup and I know our people are.”

link:

June 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Coast Guard targets unsafe boating

‘Operation Dry Water’ enforces laws on drinking, life jackets
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

U.S. Coast Guard Gunner’s Mate Tim Webb documents a boat inspection during Operation Dry Water, a national crackdown on alcohol- and drug-related boating accidents. BY VANESSA DEGGINS


To see more photos from the ride-along, CLICK HERE.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lake Charles office spent the weekend looking for impaired boaters.

The Coast Guard joined state Wildlife and Fisheries agents for Operation Dry Water, a national effort to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities on the water.

State law says a person is impaired if their bloodalcohol content exceeds 0.08 percent.
As well as looking for impaired boaters, officers also checked all required documents and safety equipment such as registration, fire extinguishers and life jackets.

In 2009, there were 32 boating accident fatalities in Louisiana.

Of those, seven were alcohol-related and 29 of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.

Common violations seen over the weekend included children not wearing life jackets and illegally moored boats.

During a Saturday afternoon ride-along, officers came across a family with the proper number of life jackets, but none of the teenage children were wearing them.

Louisiana law states that children age 16 and younger are required to wear a life vest if on an open motor boat or on the deck of a cabin cruiser.

A boat with a group of young adults was tied off to the fender system under the Interstate 210 bridge, which is illegal.

Boaters are required to have their vessels’ proof of registration on board at all times, and the driver and all adults should have some type of identification.

Officers make sure the registration number on the forms match the numbers on the boat and that the fire extinguishers have been tested or are up-to date.

Boats more than 16 feet long are required to have a fire extinguisher and a kill switch for the engine.

A person boating under the influence faces the same penalties as those of an impaired driver on the road. These include jail time, fines and the loss of boating and driving privileges.

Along with law enforcement, the main task of the Coast Guard’s Lake Charles office is ports and waterways security. This includes escorting LNG tankers and providing security around plants.

Recreational boaters should try to stay about 150 feet away from Coast Guard escorts, which are announced on citizens band Channel 16 for the public.

link: http://bit.ly/c9FB2G

June 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Top candidates being interviewed for Lake Charles fire chief job

BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Lake Charles officials will spend most of the week interviewing 14 candidates for chief of the Lake Charles Fire Department.

The selection committee consists of City Councilmen Dana Jackson and Rodney Geyen; Calcasieu Parish Chief Deputy Gary “Stitch” Guillory; and Sam Wilkerson, vice president of human resources for First Federal Bank.

Jackson said the members were chosen based on their roles on the council or for their professional supervisory experience.

Interviews began Monday, with each applicant spending about two hours with the committee.

“We’re going to get that down to two to four candidates, and they will go through a second round of interviews with the mayor, who makes the final decision,” Jackson said.

The committee is looking for someone whose leadership abilities stand out and who can work well with both the firefighters and the city administration, Jackson said.

All candidates had to pass a civil service exam before they were allowed to apply. Half of the men are from the Lake Charles Fire Department, and others come from departments in Lafayette, Carencro, Basile and Ruston, Jackson said.

“There are a number of good applicants so far,” he said. “One thing I can say about all of them is they’re very passionate about being a fireman.”

Jackson said most of the men have at least 20 years’ experience and that the committee has a list of questions to ask each applicant.

“One of the big factors is overtime and how they would correct that,” he said. “It’s been a problem in the past.”

Jackson said that last fiscal year, the department was given $2.4 million for overtime, while Lafayette’s fire department — which is much bigger — only needed $500,000.

“We want a guy who can come in with a budget and stick to it, and we want him to be able to handle things internally,” Jackson said.

Of the 14 applicants, seven work for the Lake Charles Fire Department; two work for Lafayette’s; one isn’t a firefighter; and one each is from Carencro, Sulphur, Basile and Ruston, said Wendy Goodwin, city human resources director.

Goodwin said state law says the city has to select a new chief within 60 days after the civil service tests are certified by a local civil service board.

Chief David Manuel retired in April after 37 years with the Lake Charles Fire Department. He had been chief since 2003.

link: http://bit.ly/axKXyz

June 25, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Official: Cameron beaches still oil-free and open to public

*published June 25, 2010
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

CREOLE — All Cameron Parish beaches are clean and open to the public, Clifton Hebert, parish emergency preparedness director, said Thursday.

At about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the American Press received a call from a Cameron Parish resident who said she saw dead, oil-covered animals on Rutherford Beach.

The American Press observed two dead dolphins, each about a half-mile apart. Parts of the animals were black, but neither they nor the sand had oil on it, and there was no smell of oil.

Hebert said he has heard no reports of oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak coming this far west. He said the dark color occurs on the animals during decomposition.

“More than likely, there would be oil visible in the sand and water as well,” Hebert said.
He said the dolphins were likely caught in menhaden, or pogy, fishing nets. “We had a bunch of pogies wash on shore yesterday, from a broken net,” Hebert said.

Hebert took pictures and GPS coordinates of both animals to give to state fisheries officials, who will go out today to run tests.

“We’ve definitely been keeping a close watch,” Hebert said. “About every other day agents are driving all of the beaches, checking for oil.”

On March 13, residents reported seeing tar balls at Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou, but officials didn’t think they they were connected with the spill.

From the shore of Rutherford Beach about half a dozen offshore platforms are visible.

The Louisiana National Guard is in Cameron Parish to place a Hesco barrier wall along about eight miles of shoreline. The barriers, filled with sand, are meant to protect the marshes.

Residents with any information are urged to call the parish office of emergency preparedness at 775-7048.

link: http://bit.ly/aStbOG

June 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

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