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LA Ready for Hurricanes? Not Quite Yet

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 - 4:43pm

Hurricane season starts June 1st. Is Louisiana ready for an evacuation if necessary? Does the state have enough shelters for evacuees? The short answer is no, but the Department of Social Services is working to get shelters set up, ahead of any threats. We talked to the DSS Secretary today, who says the state will be ready June 1st.

Just this weekend state agencies held a hurricane drill to make sure everyone was ready for hurricane rescues. They say they’re ready for any rescues. Now the question becomes where will the rescued people go for shelter? Kristy Nichols with LA Department of Social Services says, “We’ve secured 11,000 spaces within the state. The Red Cross has an additional 30,000.”

State leaders have said they want room for at least 50,000 evacuees. DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols says the state’s almost there. “We’re also actively negotiating with out of state partners to get us up to that 50,000 mark.” Louisiana leaders are negotiating with elected officials in other states to make sure people who have to move out of any storm’s path have a place to go. It’s a complicated process, but a process the state says will be complete by the start of hurricane season.

The next step is thinking long term. States like Florida have invested millions of dollars in setting up evacuation shelters and Florida is self-sufficient, able to house 1 million evacuees. “And they’ve done that by investing in public facilities so they’re safe during the storms.” Louisiana is looking at a similar program and lawmakers will be discussing potential plans in the upcoming legislative session.

DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols tells us there’s some relief knowing forecasters have predicted a less active hurricane season. She says even with the better forecast though, the state has to be ready for anything.