Parish prepares for ’09 hurricane threat

Deidre Cruse

 Iberville Parish officials traveled to Austin, Texas, last week for the National Hurricane Conference, even as the predictions of 2009 hurricane activity were downgraded.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr., Public Works Director Mark Migliacio, Solid Waste Manager Brian Willis and Parish Attorney Scott Stassi made attended the conference.

Ourso said he was particularly interested in what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency responsible for storm response and reimbursing local governments for their emergency expenses.

The message from the federal agency was that it is a “work in progress,” Ourso said, adding “same old stuff.”

Iberville was the third hardest hit parish in the state when Hurricane Gustav swept through in September. The parish is scheduled to receive $44 million for hurricane recovery and preparation.

Meanwhile, last week at Colorado State University, research scientist Philip J. Klotzbach and Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science William M. Gray downgraded the threat of Atlantic hurricanes for 2009.

They predict 12 named storms and 55 days of named storm activity, six hurricanes and 25 hurricane days, two intense hurricanes and five intense hurricane days. In December, they expected 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes.

Hurricane season begins in June. This year’s storm names will be Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odtte, Peter, Rose, Sam Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

Solid Waste Manager Willis, whose duties include storm debris clean-up, reported that the hurricane conference included talks on subjects ranging from pre-disaster preparedness to post-disaster reimbursement and FEMA audits.

“The most reoccurring subject in nearly every session was on how to deal with FEMA on an ongoing basis, and what changes could be expected in order to expedite and facilitate the processes in the future,” Willis said. “Even though no definitive answer was spelled out at the conference, most people went away with a better understanding of what to expect in the future.”

The conference also feature vendor booths displaying products and services for emergency response, including temporary housing, potable water, flood protections systems and debris recycling, Willis said.

“There was also time for discussing success and areas of improvement with fellow conference attendees,” he said. “We were able to compare notes to see what others had done to make things run more efficiently in the future.”