Saturday, August 18
DERIDDER — Taking their cue from lessons learned in stormy 2005, Beauregard, DeRidder and Merryville officials on Friday discussed various scenarios as the threat of Hurricane Dean increases.
Attending the hurricane briefing and ensuing planning session were Beauregard Sheriff M. Bolivar Bishop, School Superintendent Rita Mann, DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts, Merryville Mayor Charles Hudson and Police Jury President Jerry Kern.
The unified command reiterated to those who may have to evacuate from Southwest Louisiana that Beauregard Parish is no longer a public-shelter parish.
The parish learned in its dealings with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that it does not have the infrastructure to support evacuees.
The southern end of the parish suffered substantial damage from Rita, which caused destruction as far north as DeRidder, said Glen Mears Sr., emergency preparedness director.
“With this in mind, evacuees will need to travel north. Vernon Parish will be the first shelter parish available to those evacuating from Southwest Louisiana,” Mears said.
Temporary shelters may be set up for those who have a vehicle break-down or for local residents who, for whatever reason, cannot evacuate. As soon as conditions are deemed safe, those sheltered there would be moved farther north, officials said.
With the buildup to next week’s possible threat, parish officials are staging equipment, resources and responders.
“Beauregard Parish residents are urged to tune their radios to station KDLA 1010 in DeRidder or go to the Beauregard Parish Library’s Web site for evacuation and storm-related information,” said sheriff’s spokesman Robert L. McCullough Jr. “Also, the American Press and Beauregard Daily News will provide residents with information regarding storm conditions and preparedness.”
As of 2 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, Hurricane Dean was listed as a dangerous Category 4 storm, with highest sustained winds at 150 mph. Forecasters caution continued strengthening is possible.
Posted by Shawn Martin at 3:06 AM
Friday, August 17
From Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson of AccuWeather.com, of which the American Press is a member: "A strong Atlantic high pressure system should keep Dean on a slightly north of due west track through the weekend. ... Beyond that, the strength and position of that Atlantic high will determine whether or not Dean makes a more right-handed turn right into the Gulf of Mexico or continues west into the Yucatan Peninsula."
For more from AccuWeather, connect to www.americanpress.com and click on "Hurricane 2007" or "Weather."
Posted by American Press at 7:30 PM
Calcasieu Parish officials have declared a state of emergency as a precaution now that Hurricane Dean has been upgraded to a major hurricane and appears headed for the Gulf of Mexico.
The declaration came after a similar statewide declaration by Gov. Kathleen Blanco. It would allow state and federal resources to flow to the area should the storm strike.
Calcasieu’s newly formed Executive Policy Group will meet Sunday night to discuss Dean, Calcasieu officials said.
The group is comprised of the Police Jury president; the mayors of the six parish municipalities — Lake Charles, Sulphur, Iowa, DeQuincy, Westlake and Vinton; and the sheriff.
“Although the areas that may be impacted by the hurricane are not yet known, residents should be making their preparations now in the event Southwest Louisiana is affected,” the parish said in a statement.
Posted by American Press at 7:12 PM
At Lake Charles City Hall, department heads have wrapped up a series of meetings Friday to discuss the progress of Hurricane Dean.
City Administrator John Cardone said the city is keeping a close eye on Dean’s progress and may have Sunday meeting of department heads.
“We had a meeting today with staff. We don’t anticipate it bearing down on us and requiring a manadatory evacuation,” he said Friday. “Even if it’s not a mandatory evacuation, we have got to be prepared because we could have six to 20 inches of rain depending on where it goes.”
Cardone said the city wants to be ready “to answer the needs of the community” in any kind of storm scenario.
“Other people could be evacuating toward our area. We talked about several things such as putting together our phone banks to answer questions for people and the contra-flow routes for those heading east,” he said.
HECTOR SAN MIGUEL
Posted by American Press at 7:08 PM
Calcasieu Parish School Board officials were also keeping a watchful eye Friday on Hurricane Dean.
“We are working with the Office of Emergency Preparedness and monitoring this storm very closely,” Superintendent of Calcasieu Schools Wayne Savoy said.
“Over the next few days we should have a pretty good idea of the direction and tendency of this storm. There are a lot of guys smarter than I am about this and we’re listening to them.”
Savoy said he has been in contact with Calcasieu Parish Administrator Mark McMurry and OEP Director Dick Gremillion.
“Our plans depend upon what direction this thing is headed,” he said.
HEATHER REGAN WHITE
Posted by American Press at 7:07 PM
Here's a new composite from AccuWeather of Dean's possible tracks through the Gulf. For this and other complete coverage of Hurricane Dean -- updated around the clock -- connect to the main newspaper site, www.americanpress.com and click on "Hurricanes 2007."
Posted by American Press at 2:01 PM
Although Hurricane Dean is still far from Southwest Louisiana — and it is too early to know if it will threaten the area — the National Weather Service advises people to carefully watch the progress of the storm this weekend, and be sure to have emergency supplies ready just in case.
Roger Erickson, a meteorologist with the weather service’s local office, says the high-pressure area over the Southeastern states that ushered Tropical Storm Erin into the central Texas coast should persist into next week and may direct Hurricane Dean along the same path.
But he said any weakening of the high-pressure area could allow the storm to strike farther up the coast. “We are not out of the woods yet,” he said.
Dean is now a Category 2 hurricane.
With the storm likely headed for the Gulf, Calcasieu Parish officials said they were monitoring its progress. Any decisions about evacuation would be made early next week.
“We were hopeful a day or two ago that this was going to curve and go up maybe the east coast or Florida, but now it looks pretty certain it will go into the Gulf of Mexico,” Dick Gremillion, director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, told Calcasieu police jurors.
Erickson said Dean is forecast to grow into a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds by the time it hits the Yucatan. A storm of Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane.
“It does have potential to be a dangerous hurricane — the same type of hurricane like Katrina, Rita, Wilma,” Gremillion said.
But Erickson said that if the storm hits the Yucatan, the winds could be significantly decreased when it enters the Gulf. He said it was too early to say how big the storm will be when it enters the Gulf.
Even if the hurricane stays on the path toward the lower or central Texas coast, it could still mean minor flooding along the coast of Cameron, Erickson said.
Hurricane Rita was on a similar path in 2005, but the weakening of a high-pressure area covering the region at that time brought the storm right into Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas.
Clifton Hebert, director of the Cameron Parish Office of Homeland Security, said his office would monitor the storm over the next few days.
‘‘It is very important that the community monitor the progress of Dean,’’ he said. ‘‘Everyone should take a close look at their family’s personal evacuation plan and act accordingly.’’
To track the hurricane, go to the National Hurricane Center’s Web site, www.nhc.noaa.gov.
MIKE JONES AND JEREMY HARPER
Posted by American Press at 1:37 PM
We've fired up the American Press Hurricane Blog once more, and we'll be keeping a close eye on the track of Hurricane Dean for the duration.
Check us often -- and post here any cancellations, closings or weather-related questions you'd like to share.
Also, read more news and around-the clock AccuWeather hurricane coverage at our main Web site, www.americanpress.com.
Thanks for reading.
Posted by American Press at 1:14 PM