Jason Businelle and his children, Amber, Tiffany and Jason Jr., find their way to their room at the La Quinta Inn in Lake Charles after evacuating. The Businelles are from Morgan City. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
(Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, September 01, 2012 6:54 PMThe head of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness said its staff treated Hurricane Isaac like any other threatening storm, even though the storm did not directly hit Southwest Louisiana.
“Any tropical system is dangerous,” OEP Director Dick Gremillion said Thursday. “We prepare for these things just like it’s coming here. Any time one of these systems enters the Gulf (of Mexico), we have to be on guard.”
Gremillion said Isaac’s ever-changing direction and intensity, even after it made landfall, kept emergency officials on high alert.
He said the office’s top priority in any situation is keeping the public safe.
“The thing we keep in mind is we don’t want anyone getting hurt, so that’s how we do our planning,” Gremillion said. “We have a checklist of items we go through, (and) we meet with other public safety and government agencies to go through the checklist. We ask them what their concerns are and determine if we have any shortfalls before we might need to take some action.”
Gremillion said residents should follow the same steps the OEP does in preparing for a potentially threatening storm.
“These things are subject to rapid changes,” he said. “This particular storm surprised people because they thought it was only a Category 1 hurricane. But it was slow-moving and caused a lot of extra rainfall and increased the amount of time the wind had to pile up the storm surge.”
Another major concern was keeping children in local schools safe, Gremillion said.
“Buses don’t take wind loads on their sides very well, and we, along with other school boards in the region, had the same concerns,” he said.
The storm caused minimal damage in Southwest Louisiana, but did lead to 1,200 residents losing power. Gremillion said the outages began Tuesday afternoon, which some people were likely not expecting.
“People don’t realize that it doesn’t take but about 30-40 mile-per-hour sustained winds to really start damaging trees, which can damage electrical power,” he said.
Gremillion said people should be prepared for the rest of this year’s hurricane season, especially since Southwest Louisiana has seen powerful hurricanes — like Rita, Lily and Ike — in late September.
“We’re not out of the woods, yet,” he said. “We’ve got about another eight weeks of busy time this hurricane season.”
Gremillion said the OEP continues to monitor how Southeast Louisiana officials are dealing with Isaac. He said no officials have made direct requests for assistance.
Calcasieu Animal Services has sent personnel to St. John the Baptist Parish to assist with animal rescue.