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Story Archives: Are you prepared for hurricane season?
|Are you prepared for hurricane season?|
Hurricane season is under way, and officials are asking the public to get their disaster supply kits and emergency plans finalized.
Last year, Hurricane Gustav brought over 18 inches of rain to Franklin Parish. With that, crops were lost, residents were displaced from their homes, and local businesses suffered major damage to structures.
According to Mitch Reynolds, Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director for Franklin Parish, the area is better prepared to handle such a disaster as they were last year.
"My office and my personnel are certified, the area shelters are certified, and we have been inspected by the State," Reynolds said. "We are stocked up on bottled waters, M.R.E.'s, and cots. We have better communication and more trained workers."
Reynolds said 819 families in Franklin Parish were temporarily displaced last year, and only 11 of those families were permanently displaced.
"The public works engineers for the city and parish have done all they can do to insure that the drainage systems work properly," he said. "There is only so much you can do in terms of drainage for our area."
The Best Western Hotel in Winnsboro was among the many businesses who felt Gustav's effects.
"It caused more than $600,000 in damages to our hotel," said Tina Campbell, general manager. "All that rain came in at one time and there was no where for it to go. The rooms were a total loss. We had to remodel everything."
Guests of the hotel were asleep when flood waters poured into the rooms around 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 2. "We woke them up and told them to go to the shelter at the River of Life Church," Campbell said.
After three days of rain, sweet potato fields were soaked, and according to a local grower, over half of his crop was lost.
"We lost about 60% of our sweet potatoes," Shaun Thornhill, Vice-President of Thornhill Farms. That translates into about three million dollars lost due to inundated fields.
The decimation of the sweet potato industry in Louisiana is demonstrated by the fact that of the average 100 growers in the state, maybe ten or less replanted this year.
"We lost a whole industry due to Gustav," Thornhill said. "Plants that did survive were not vigorous," he continued. "We are fortunate because we could have lost everything."
Etta Mathis, a resident of the Winnsboro Housing Authority, will never forget the effects Gustav had on her family. "It took everything I had. My car, deep freezer, clothes, furniture, TV, the refrigerator ... I lost it all."
Inside Mathis' home was four feet of water and everything she had. At 2 a.m., she and her family did not have any time to grab any belongings to them. They evacuated to a nearby hotel where they remained for many days.
Not only did local residents of that community have to replace valuable goods and personal items, the homes had to be sanitized. Mathis says raw sewer backed into her house and left an odor for weeks. "There was feces on the walls. It was filthy."
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is calling for a "near normal" hurricane season. Weather experts urge citizens to get an emergency plan in order before word of a threatening storm.
"It's always better to get a plan before hurricane season rather than waiting until the threat of a storm," said National Hurricane Center Public Affair's Officer Dennis Feltgen. "If you do it before hand, you're less likely to make a rational decision during the time of a crisis"
Hurricane season started June 1 and lasts until November 30. Feltgen said that while September is the peak month, the tropics are active between middle August and late October.
Brad Bryant, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Jackson, which serves Franklin Parish, said that local residents can not rule out feeling hurricane force winds — even though they are hundreds of miles inland.
"It would be hard to imagine a circumstance where a hurricane was at a category 2 status in Franklin Parish, but it definitely is not impossible," Bryant said.
A category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale packs winds between 96-110 MPH.
Gustav made landfall as a category 2 hurricane near Cocodrire, Louisiana on August 31.
"A storm needs to make landfall somewhere between Corpus Christ, TX and New Orleans, LA in order for you guys to feel the effects," Bryant said. "Once it makes landfall, it depends on the direction in which it is moving to determine the effect, if any, it has on Franklin Parish.
The National Hurricane Center advises families to have a family plan, which includes emergency evacuation plans, family contacts, and escape routes.
Residents are also encouraged to stock up on non-perishable food items and have a disaster supply kit ready. This would include, but not limited to, a gallon of water per person daily, non-perishable and canned foods, blankets, pillows, and clothing. A first-aid kit, prescription drugs, flashlights and batteries are also essential during a disaster.
Resident Etta Mathis says you never know what you have until it's gone.
"I didn't get my life back until December. For two and a half months we slept on an air mattress," Mathis said. "I'm on pins and needles. If a storm is coming this year, I'm packing up and I'm leaving. I'm not waiting. You think it can't happen to you here in Franklin Parish, but it can, and it happened to me."