Posts tagged ‘hurricane season’

Trooper: Contraflow governor’s last resort

*published Sept. 23, 2010
Since Hurricane Rita struck Southwest Louisiana five years ago, officers say a lot has changed.

“During Rita, we didn’t have a set contraflow plan on file. We certainly didn’t plan for Texas to evacuate through our area,” said state police Sgt. Michael Edgar, a patrol shift supervisor.

Troopers were stationed along Interstate 10 to make sure traffic was flowing well.

“We decided early on that we were not going to actually investigate any crashes unless they were injury crashes. We’d just go and make sure they exchanged information,” Edgar said.

Troopers with gas cans were also stationed along the highway.

“After Rita, it didn’t take long to develop a contraflow plan,” Edgar said. “Up until then, we didn’t really think we needed it.”

Officials looked at afteraction reports, southeast Louisiana’s contraflow plan and met with DOTD officials.

“Contraflow is always a means of last resort that can only be implemented at the direction of the governor because it’s so manpower intensive,” Lt. Tim LeFleur said.

Working with other area law enforcement agencies, troopers would have to block off 32 exits and direct all traffic north and east.

Since the plan was developed, the state has never had to implement contraflow on any major highways.

*main story

Since Rita hit, U.S. 171 and U.S. 165 have been widened to four lanes through Shreveport and Interstate 10 has been widened to six lanes.

“Contraflow is only if we need to move a lot of people in a short time, and here in Southwest Louisiana, that’s not a problem,” Sgt. Ross McCain said. “We usually evacuate in stages, starting with Cameron Parish. That keeps the roads from being so congested.”

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said calling for an evacuation is always the hardest decision to make.

“I don’t know if people will always be so willing to evacuate. For Rita, the destruction from Katrina was fresh on their minds,” Mancuso said.

He said he understands that leaving costs money and encouraged people to be ready and have a little money saved.

“The sad part is we could tell them to leave and the storm side swipes us, causing minimal damage, but that’s kind of a chance we have to take living here,” he said.

Contraflow maps are available at State Police Troop D at 805 Main St.


September 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Emergency Supply Kit (video)

May 30, 2010 – Hurricane season begins June 1st and Louisiana is having it’s Hurricane Preparedness Tax Holiday May 29th and 30th. Here are a few things you should have in your kit and what is tax exempt.
To view the video, CLICK HERE.

May 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Texas OKs forced evacuations

published August 1, 2009
Calcasieu officials say that’s never a good idea

A Texas law set to take effect Sept. 1 gives law enforcement officers the right to use “reasonable force” during a mandatory evacuation.

The law, sponsored by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, does not give a definition of “ reasonable force.” Carona told The Associated Press the law could be of use “in removing children, the elderly or infirm from unsafe situations.”

In Louisiana, there is no law in place to force residents to leave their homes, regardless of the situation. But both Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said they make sure their officers explain the consequences of remaining.

“The resident is told that at some point they could be cut off from all parish services,” Mancuso said. “That means no police, no fire or medical services and that they are staying at their own risk.”

Dixon also said his officers won’t force anyone to evacuate.

“We can make sure residents without transportation get to a shelter or a bus going north,” Dixon said. “But they are also told when we go to code red (winds are above 40 mph) we can’t send someone out to help them.”

Dixon said that in “extreme cases” — where a person may have a mental illness and pose a danger to themselves or others — an officer can take a person to the hospital for evaluation.

“I think our Legislature had explored some type of option (to compel evacuation), but they scrapped it,” Mancuso said. “And in my opinion, it really seems unenforceable.

“For instance, if we have 200,000 people in the parish and 40,000 decide to stay, I don’t see how we have the manpower to make all of them leave.”

Mancuso said the only thing he could think of would be to file charges afterward, because arresting people is also out of the question.

“We empty our jail and send our prisoners north, too,” he said.

Dixon agreed with Mancuso’s assessment, saying a department could also be put in a position to be sued after the fact.

In rationalizing the lack of a definition of “reasonable force,” Carona said the law is meant to be a tool for Texas law enforcement officers to use at their own discretion.

Sgt. Mark Kraus with the city said the law enforcement definition of “reasonable force” when a suspect is resisting “is to use a greater force than what is being exerted upon the officer.”

“And I just don’t see it as logical for an officer to be in a standoff with someone trying to get them out of their own property,” Kraus said.


August 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Meteorologist explains changes in measurements related to storms

*May 28, 2009

Weather forecasters explained new procedures they will have in place for the coming hurricane season as they met with local emergency officials on Wednesday.

Meteorologist Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles talked about changes to forms of measurement and how they will present information to the public.

The Saffir-Simpson scale — which determines a hurricane’s category — will only measure wind speeds and projected wind damage, Erickson said.

When the scale was developed in the 1970s, it only measured wind speed, but central pressure and storm surge measurements were later added.

“This began to create a problem,” Erickson said. He cited Hurricane Andrew in 1992, whose winds were equivalent to a category three storm, but the storm surge measurements were at category five.

He also stressed the importance of residents understanding the language forecasters use, using the difference between sustained winds and wind gusts as an example.

New tools the weather service plans to use include specific weather impact statements and graphics that show inland flooding and storm-urge measurements.

“People don’t always understand what 60 mph winds can do, so we are going to show them,” Erickson said.

Calcasieu Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion talked about the lessons his agency learned from the 2008 hurricane season and encouraged other OEP officials to make sure residents are informed.

“The meteorologists are experts on weather forecasting, we need to be experts on the impact of that forecast on the community,” Gremillion said. “We want people to know the elevation of their area and be able to explain what a 10-foot storm surge means.”

If your house is in a flood zone, you should have received an elevation certificate when you purchased the home. Gremillion also said people can call the OEP office to find out the elevation of their area.

He said the evacuations to north Louisiana shelters worked well, as did preregistering residents with special medical needs.

“We did have some communications problems with which shelters people were going to,” Gremillion said.

He said there are about 3,000 people in Calcasieu Parish without transportation.

“When evacuating people, we have to make that decision at least 72 hours in advance,” Gremillion said. That would avoid buses being on the road during tropical storm winds.

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May 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm