Jefferson Parish officials urged residents Thursday to be prepared for the coming hurricane season and to heed warnings to evacuate should a storm bear down on the region this year.
While touting the improvements to both the hurricane protection system built by the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina and the parish’s own drainage systems, officials warned that those systems are not a guarantee of safety.
“Even with all the $14.5 billion that’s been spent, it’s a risk reduction system, not a risk elimination system,” Parish President John Young said at a news conference. “Determine right now where you and your family would go in the case of an evacuation.”
Hurricane season begins June 1. Experts are predicting this year’s season will be below or close to average in the number and intensity of storms.
Officials said the parish is prepared for a hurricane and perhaps in a better position than ever due to improvements to the area’s flood prevention system. But that system, which is built to withstand a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in a given year, is not infallible, they said.
Young said the different characteristics of storms mean residents should pay attention to official warnings, even if a particular storm does not appear to be strong. He pointed to Hurricane Isaac, which was only a Category 1 storm when it hit Louisiana in 2012 but still caused much damage.
Listening to evacuation warnings is particularly important for those areas of the parish that lie outside the storm protection system, such as Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle, he said.
This weekend is a tax holiday for supplies that would be useful in a hurricane; state sales tax will be waived on those goods. Young encouraged residents to use the opportunity to prepare their hurricane kits and stock up on supplies.
Melonie Stewart, director of customer service for Entergy, asked residents to have patience with the company in the wake of a storm. Entergy will work to restore power first to crucial facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations and sewer lift stations, she said.
Stewart also encouraged residents to download Entergy’s smartphone app for more information on outages.
More information about storm preparedness can be found on Jefferson Parish’s website, www.jeffparish.net, by clicking on the hurricane graphic. Business owners seeking re-entry placards that will grant them access back into the parish after an evacuation should go to www.jumpstartjefferson.com to apply for a placard, Young said.
Officials with the east and west bank Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities also echoed calls for residents to listen to officials if an evacuation is ordered.
Those warnings were echoed by Mike Stack, the Corps of Engineers’ chief of emergency operations.
“Evacuation, even for areas inside the protection system, is a key element of a response plan,” Stack said. “Please heed any kinds of orders.”
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelendson.com.