Jefferson Parish President John Young urged residents to be prepared, but not panic, as a weakened Tropical Storm Karen rolled closer to the Louisiana coast Friday evening.
The parish has declared a state of emergency in advance of Karen but Young said current forecasts provided a dose of good news Jefferson residents, with little significant storm surge or flooding expected even in areas particularly vulnerable to storms.
“There’s no need for panic, no need for over-concern,” Young said. “But we’re preparing for the worst and hoping and praying for the best.”
That preparation includes checking and staffing the parish’s pump stations, which will be manned until the storm has passed, Young said. Public works crews, including vacuum trucks, are also being stationed to deal with any flooding which does occur.
“They’re all on alert, all on standby, all ready to go into action,” Young said.
In much of the parish, however, the threat of serious flooding it minor. Officials are expecting as little as a half-inch of rain in much of the parish and worst case forecasts project between 2 inches and 4 inches, Young said.
The $14.5 billion hurricane protection system that surrounds most of Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes - built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the levees failed during Hurricane Katrina - is designed to withstand dramatically larger surges than those presented by Karen. But many of the areas outside of that system are expected to see at least some impact from the storm.
That includes Grand Isle, which was put under a mandatory evacuation order earlier today, as well as Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria, all of which are particularly vulnerable to the storm. But even in those areas, surge is expected to be well below 5 feet, the point at which significant flooding would occur, Young said.
However, some flooding will likely still occur and additional crews are being deployed to the unprotected areas of the parish, he said.
“We’re obviously putting a lot of personnel down, lot of public works people down, in Lafitte, Crown Point and Barataria,” Young said.
For now, Young urged residents to remain calm but to make sure they were prepared for the storm. That includes securing items that might be blown away - officials are still expecting winds of 39 mph to 45 mph - clearing out storm drains and making sure a stock of food, water and batteries is available.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” he said.
In the meantime, much will go on as usual in Jefferson. Crowds were gathering for Gretna Fest outside of the Emergency Operations Center as Young and other officials briefed the media. The event will continue despite the storm.
“Come on out tonight if you can,” Councilman Ricky Templet urged at the news conference. “Enjoy some of the great food and culture we have here in Gretna.”