While the Bayou Region is still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Tropical Storm Cristobal draws near.
Due to the virus, Lafourche and Terrebonne officials say new safety protocols will be in place in case the need for evacuation and shelters arises.
“At the point where we have to open a shelter. We’ll be checking temperatures and requiring people wear masks,” said Archie Chaisson, Lafourche Parish President.
“What we’re trying to work through now is figuring out how to segregate people with the symptoms and where do we send those people in the shelter — that we can distance off, or cordon off — segregate those people without segregating family units,” he continued.
Earl Eues, Director of Terrebonne Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (TOHSEP), said the COVID-19 safety guidelines shelters are similar to the ones now in place for evacuation.
“We have set up a preliminary operating procedure for our parish pickup point, which would be H. L. Bourgeois, in the event that we call for a mandatory evacuation. Those that present themselves to the parish pickup point will be asked questions regarding symptoms of coronavirus, and their temperature will be taken,” he said.
“Those that exhibit a temperature, them and their families will be separated from the general population…registered and then they will be placed on a bus with residents that have exhibited signs or symptoms of COVID,” he continued. “When they get to Monroe, if it’s a mandatory evacuation, the civic center complex is large enough to be able to separate them out once they get up there. And while we’re there, if anybody exhibits those signs and symptoms, we can pull them out of the general population and put them in the COVID population.”
Chaisson said Lafourche is also putting guidelines in place to separate symptomatic residents from those devoid of symptoms to transport to Monroe if a mandatory evacuation is necessary.
“We don’t expect to have to use any of that for this particular event this weekend. Hopefully this is just more of a rainmaker and a little bit of a tidal influx, where we see a little bit higher water along the coast,” he added. “But yeah, we have all those preparations in place to screen temperatures, hand out [personal protective equipment] and stuff like that.”
Although recent focus has been on the coronavirus, Chaisson and Eues say their respective entities are prepared.
“We prepare for hurricanes all-year long, so it’s not just when hurricanes start that we prepare for hurricane season,” Eues said. “The beginning of the coronavirus issues, we were very busy taking care of the coronavirus. But as that went on through its channels…we were planning for a hurricane event. I mean, especially since the coronavirus because we have to do evacuations different.”
“June 1st is really just a date. We continually prep for hurricane season throughout the year by doing work on drainage, infrastructure, pump stations and things like that,” Chaisson said.
Eues and Chaisson both emphasized now is the time for residents to get their game plan together.
“Think about the things you have in your hurricane prep kit,” Chaisson said. “And now is the time to think about those new normal items: packing sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer and masks. You need to throw that in the hurricane kit now.”
“Public Works is out there pumping down the system, making sure it’s pumped down, making sure our pumps are operating and making sure everything is operating as we need it to be in order to facilitate that amount of rainfall,” he continued. “Now, if we get 10 to 15 inches of rain in one hour, or two or three-hour span, we may have flooding throughout the parish — not just the outlying areas because that is a lot of rainfall. So people need to be prepared for that…All of our residents should be prepared to evacuate if it comes down to that point where they start to get water inside their homes; they should have a plan of where they’re going to go.”