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Governor Jindal Holds Press Conference to Give Update on Rising Waters & Parishes in State of Emergency with GOHSEP, Officials

April 6, 2008

BATON ROUGE – Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference today following a briefing with GOHSEP, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Louisiana State Police and other emergency response officials to give an update on the rising water levels in the Mississippi River and emergency declarations issued in several Louisiana parishes. To date, St. Martin, Pointe Coupee, Concordia, Vernon, Tensas, Sabine, Madison, East Carroll and Catahoula Parishes have all declared a State of Emergency.

Gov Jindal High Water Situation, Press Conference


Governor Jindal discusses Louisiana's efforts regarding
the current high water situation

Photo by S Burr   

Governor Jindal was joined at the press briefing today by Mark Cooper, Director of GOHSEP, Adjutant General MG Bennett Landreneau of the Louisiana National Guard, Shannon Gilreath of the U.S. Coast Guard, Colonel Al Lee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Colonel Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine, Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy Leblanc, Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson, Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Ed Preau, and Wildlife and Fisheries Captain of Law Enforcement Division Ronald Morris at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness in Baton Rouge.

Jindal said, “The emergency operations center has been activated to ensure that those parishes that have declared a state of emergency are receiving all the resources they need in an efficient and timely manner. Additionally, I have directed Mark Cooper to continue to stay in contact with any other parishes that have not declared a state of emergency to ensure any needs they have which may arise are immediately addressed. Already, the state has distributed tens of thousands of sandbags and has deployed air and ground support through the Louisiana National Guard, the State Police, DOTD, the Corrections Department and other agencies.

“I’m also urging people in those parishes that have already declared a state of emergency to stay alert and pay attention to the news and announcements in your area so if a situation develops you are immediately informed. We are continuing to monitor the rising water levels in those parishes along the Mississippi River and other parishes experiencing rising water levels in their lakes and rivers. Every possible resource will be made available to those in need in the affected areas, and I have directed Mark Cooper to continue to give updates on this situation on a daily basis to keep the public informed.”

Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP):

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) is working with federal, state and local partners in preparation for the potential flooding due to rising water levels in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. GOHSEP continues to stay in constant contact with the local parish Emergency Operation Directors.

On March 24, 2008 GOHSEP partially activated its State Emergency Operation Center (EOC), to monitor potential hazards and maintain situational awareness and coordinate state resource requests. 

Governor Jindal signed a State Emergency Declaration on March 24th due to the potential dangers of flooding across the state. The declaration allows for state assistance to be rendered to parishes in need.

Parish UPDATE To Date:

·          Pointe Coupee Parish – (All sandbagging efforts currently on HOLD)

·          St. Martin Parish – One LDWF (Wildlife and Fisheries) boat for patrol of lower St. Martin waterways, 80,000 sandbags from GOHSEP, and 20,000 sandbags from St. Bernard Parish.

·          Concordia Parish – 45,000 sandbags from GOHSEP.

·          Vernon – 13,000 sandbags from GOHSEP.

·          Sabine – 13,000 sandbags from GOHSEP and 50 barricades for traffic control from DOTD.

·          Catahoula – 18,000 sandbags from GOHSEP.

Louisiana State Police

In response to a request by the Point Coupee Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, the Louisiana State Police (LSP) is providing security personnel and equipment in the Morganza Spillway Forebay area. 

Security Force personnel are patrolling the sand bag reinforced “potato levee” along a 2.2 mile stretch to ensure that the sandbag reinforcements are not vandalized. The Louisiana State Police worked closely with the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office to clearly define this mission.  In addition, LSP is coordinating with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and the Louisiana National Guard, both of whom will take an active roll in providing personnel and equipment for this security detail. 

LSP is also providing aerial surveillance capabilities for the monitoring of water levels and levee conditions.  LSP will continue to support this mission until such time as the flood waters recede or the need for security no longer exists.

Louisiana National Guard

Louisiana National Guard is continuing to provide security and engineering support to the local authorities along the Mississippi River at the Morganza Spillway. Over the last few weeks the Louisiana National Guard, in support of parish officials, has fortified over two miles of levee and is prepared to continue providing engineer support. The Louisiana National Guard is continuing to provide security and surveillance forces in conjunction with the state and local law enforcement.

At 8AM this morning, the Louisiana National Guard Joint Force Headquarters prepared to issue a state-wide alert to all units and staff in regards to the current flood conditions. This alert directs Louisiana National Guard forces to be prepared to deploy rapidly and provide engineer, transportation, security, communication, and aviation emergency operations anywhere in the State that may be affected. 

In accordance with detailed plans, units will ensure that transportation, debris removal, high water rescue, aircraft, and emergency support equipment are loaded and prepared for any potential mission. Emergency response force packages will be assembled and capable of deploying forward to affected areas as soon as directed.

Across the state, Louisiana Air National Guard (LANG) soldiers and airmen will validate contact information so that a new automated alerting system can instantly notify and call-in Guardsmen to carry out our missions. On order, Louisiana National Guard liaisons will report to affected parish and state emergency operations centers in order to provide information on military support options and capabilities.

The Louisiana National Guard Joint Operation Center in coordination with several other military command centers throughout the state will be prepared to activate increased manning while constantly monitoring the current situation and providing situational awareness to LANG forces 24-hours-a-day.

Louisiana National Guard units will identify logistical requirements in order to be prepared to sustain the force for extended operations. At the lowest level, units will perform checks to ensure they are prepared to operate for three to five days without resupply. 

LANG signal units have just completed a state-wide communications exercise to test capabilities.  LANG prepares command, control, and communication systems to provide redundant and interoperable communication to both military and civilian first responders in support of potential emergency operations.

Department of Public Safety and Corrections

As of Saturday, April 5th at 7 PM, the Mississippi River was at 55.4 feet.  Flood stage is 48 feet at the Red River Landing, which is Angola.  The forecast is the river will crest at 58.5 feet on the morning of April 16th.  It is anticipated by James Siffert of the Corps of Engineers that the crest projection will be increased due to heavy flooding in the Upper Mississippi Valley.  The ring levee surrounding Angola was intentionally breached to eliminate extensive damage to the levee if overtopped.  At this time approximately 5,330 acres or approximately 30 percent of Angola is flooded.  (This is all of the land outside of the main levee which includes approximately 3,500 acres of farm and pasture land resulting in the moving of over 400 cows inside the main levee.)

On Saturday evening, April 5th, the ferry ramp on the west bank was flooded and the Angola ferry ceased operation. Employees now cross by crew boat.  Approximately 35 percent of employees cross the ferry daily from Avoyelles, Pointe Coupee, Rapides and Concordia Parishes. 

In addition, the ring levee must be repaired which will require heavy dirt moving equipment. 

The Corps of Engineers is continuously monitoring the levee and these evacuations may be adjusted by their recommendations. The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police are providing helicopters for our levee monitoring on an as needed basis at this time but will begin on a daily basis when the river reaches 58 feet.  The levee is being monitored daily by Louisiana State Penitentiary personnel on 4-wheelers as directed by the Corps of Engineers. 

At 58 feet lights will be posted at the corner of the levee adjacent to the Mississippi River channel to warn river traffic of the location of the levee.  At this time 24-hour security is being provided on the main levee to prevent any boats, recreational, fishing or otherwise from approaching the levee as a security and safety measure.  This surveillance will continue 24 hours a day until this water has subsided from the main levee. 

On Monday morning, April 7th, at 8:30 a.m. a meeting is scheduled with Department of Corrections Incident Command Center Staff, the Corps of Engineers and staff of Louisiana State Penitentiary to evaluate and revise our plans and projections. 

Department of Transportation and Development

Providing manpower and equipment to the 5th District Levee Board in the Vidalia area

This effort began Thursday afternoon, when the levee board asked DOTD to help haul sand for bagging. DOTD immediately provided 40 dump trucks and drivers, who hauled the sand from the levee board’s sand pit in Sicily Island to the sandbagging operation in Vidalia. This effort continued through Friday morning, when rains halted the operations.

Fortunately, the levee district said DOTD already had hauled enough sand (approximately 1,000 cubic yards) to keep the operation going through the weekend. Conditions are expected to improve on Monday morning, when DOTD will resume the hauling operations. It is estimated that DOTD has hauled enough sand to fill 30,000 sandbags. Most of these sandbags are being used to control “sand boils,” water that seeps below the levees and often leaks levee material with it. The sandbags are placed in a ring beneath the boil, and when the water gets to a certain height, the pressure of the sandbagged water usually stops the seepage. DOTD also has dedicated three trucks to haul many of the filled sandbags to Tensas Parish. DOTD has dedicated approximately 60 employees to this effort to assist the 5th District Levee Board.

Providing back-up levee inspection assistance

DOTD has approximately six inspectors who assist and support the levee boards’ inspection efforts. Although the levee boards are the first line of defense, DOTD provides assistance as needed. The Corps also has levee inspectors working in the field.

Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services is working closely with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security to offer our full support in the event that any parish will have to open a shelter. 

Secretary Ann Silverberg Williamson said, “We urge all residents to monitor the latest information, have your alternate location for safety identified and check on your friends and family to help them in identifying their safe relocation site should it become necessary.”

Department of Health and Hospitals

Emergency Systems Engaged:

“Lean forward” activities initiated: Hospital Designated Regional Coordinator Network (overseen by Louisiana Hospital Association) was placed on notice to actively engage with parish directors and the hospitals in their region to determine the threat matrix relative to the specific parishes/ facilities in the (potential) flooding areas.

·          April 5, 2008 – State Health Officer J. Guidry spoke directly to J. Matessino (LHA):  LHA will distribute a "Hospital CEO Flooding Alert" to all hospitals, beginning today.

·          Nursing Home Designated Regional Coordinator Network (overseen by Health Standards Section and Louisiana Nursing Home Association) was placed on notice to actively engage with parish directors and the nursing homes in their region to determine the threat matrix relative to the specific parishes/ facilities in the (potential) flooding areas.

·          April 3, 2008 – Nursing home association told by DHH to ensure nursing homes have verified their evacuation plans in the event any might be required to evacuate.  DHH will provide safety net support through ESF 8 in the event there is a need.  DHH remains engaged with the nursing home association. 

·          EMS, Public health, Federal Liaisons were also placed on notice for any potential support required to assist 

Monitoring Activities:

There are approximately 41 health care facilities located in regions potentially impacted by flooding (13 nursing homes and 28 acute care facilities including hospitals and specialty hospitals).

DHH maintains a list of all facilities and generator capabilities in the event of power outages.  DHH will be maintaining daily contact with Nursing home and hospital association partners that monitor the threat matrix. 

DHH Warnings to the Public

Avoid contaminated floodwaters – There is always the possibility that flooding will cause sewage treatment systems (both community and residential) to fail, exposing people to disease-causing bacteria.

·          Be on the lookout for dangerous wildlife in the floodwaters such as snakes, rats, alligators or any frightened animal. Stay away.

·          Be aware of submerged electrical or power lines. Electrocution is a major killer in floods. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your utility company or local emergency manager.

·          If you have been in contact with floodwaters, showering with soap and water is sufficient.

·          Wading in the water could pose a health risk if it enters the body through an exposed wound.

Do not drink floodwater – Because the floodwaters may contain disease-causing bacteria or viruses, do not drink or ingest it.

·          If you get your drinking water from a well, boil it before drinking it.

·          Be aware of any other boil water advisories issued by the State, local government or your local water system.

Other tips offered by health officials include:

·          Motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians should use precautions when crossing any flowing body of water due to the possibility of dangerous currents.

·          Practice good hygiene during cleanup – Assume that everything touched by floodwater is contaminated with bacteria and will have to be disinfected.  People are advised to wash their hands frequently during cleanup and always wear rubber gloves.

·        Septic tanks – Flooding will keep septic systems and other residential sewage disposal systems from operating correctly until the floodwaters recede. Homeowners should avoid using the home’s plumbing system if the septic tank or the drain field is still underwater. Do not use the plumbing system if sewage is backing up into the house.

·          Look before you step – After a flood, the ground and floors are covered with debris including broken glass, nails and other sharp objects. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.

·          Gas Leaks – Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don't smoke or use candles, lanterns or open flames unless you are sure that the gas has been turned off and the area has been aired out.

·          Carbon Monoxide – Always use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine outdoors. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are especially deadly – cook with charcoal only outdoors.

·          Clean-up – Floodwaters can pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Spoiled food and flooded cosmetics and medicines are health hazards. When in doubt, throw them out.

Department of Agriculture and Forestry

LDAF has contacted parishes within the possible impact zone to extend offer of assistance.  LDAF assets have been put on standby for possible rapid deployment.  State Emergency Fuel Vendor has been put on standby for possible deployment to affected areas.  Louisiana State Animal Response Team has been notified and is currently monitoring potential threats and is coordinating possible deployment with LDAF.

Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

DWF is currently supporting preparedness activities.  DWF has two boats and four agents providing security daily from 6pm-6am in Pointe Coupee Parish on the water side of Morganza.  Additionally, DWF has one boat and two agents providing security and enforcing the no wake zone from 6am-6pm this weekend and next in Stephensville (Lower St. Martin).

United States Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for Search and Rescue (SAR) on the high seas and on waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.  Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries is the lead State agency for urban search and rescue (ESF-9).  The Coast Guard is maintaining its normal SAR posture within the State of Louisiana and stands ready to respond to all SAR incidents as they occur in both Federal and State waterways.  If widespread flooding occurs as a result of high water on the Lower Mississippi River, the Coast Guard will provide highly skilled SAR planners and communications personnel to GOHSEP and the ESF-9 Command Post at the Wildlife and Fisheries headquarters in Baton Rouge.  The Coast Guard will also bring to bear available Coast Guard SAR resources, including aircraft and shallow draft flood punts, to work in concert with agency partners to ensure the best possible interagency response.

The Coast Guard is carefully monitoring the river stages along with the potential risks to the public and commercial navigation. On the Mississippi River, the Coast Guard has enacted high water action plans, which impose specific safety restrictions on the marine industry. Up and down the Lower Mississippi River, the Coast Guard has implemented additional restrictions on barge fleeting facilities requiring extra tugs to stand by to prevent breakaways or respond to casualties. The Coast Guard has also increased inspections of barge fleeting and other waterfront facilities and vessels to ensure compliance with mandatory safety requirements. 

In Baton Rouge, the Coast Guard has established a vessel traffic control center in partnership with the towing vessel industry to control marine traffic through the city. Specific measures within a newly enacted safety zone include requiring the use of assist tugs to pass under the U.S. Highway 190 Bridge as well as entering and exiting the Port Allen Locks; implementing one way traffic through this section of waterway; and limiting the number of barges in each tow.  In New Orleans, the Coast Guard is controlling traffic around Algiers Point through our Vessel Traffic Center to prevent collisions and reduce congestion through this busy port.  Other actions include prohibiting vessels from sailing into the river if they are unable to make minimum speeds. 

The Coast Guard has limited the length of tows allowed to transit through the Morgan City area to those less than 600 feet in length and continues to control traffic through the Vessel Traffic Center located at Berwick Bay.  The Coast Guard is taking an aggressive approach in educating and warning mariners of the potential hazards associated with elevated river stages and continues to partner with the State of Louisiana, local parishes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the marine industry to prevent accidents and promote safe navigation through our ports.

Army Corps of Engineers

Report for 6 Apr 2008

Weather: Temperature 78 degrees F., Mostly Sunny.

River stages:  Red River Landing: N/A with a NWS forecast crest of 58.5 ft on 16 April

                       Carrolton gage: 15.5 ft with a NWS forecast crest of 17.0 ft on 16 April.

                       Morgan City gage: 6.5 ft with a NWS forecast crest of 7.5 ft

Executive Summary: Our levee sector personnel continue to supplement the surveillance of the levee system by the Levee Boards and LA DOTD.  Revised National Weather Service (NWS) river forecast below Baton Rouge approaching thresholds levels for operation of the Bonnet Carre spillway.  We will continue to assess the conditions as they develop in the next few days and determine the best course of action in ensuring the safety of the public and the national interest.

Activities - Last 24 hours:

a) Bonnet Carre - Water continues to seep through the needles of the gate bays with a flow 4500 cfs.  The protection dike around the Circle borrow pit develop a 30 ft long breach and it is no longer in operation.

b) Lock Operations. - High river stage is causing increased locking times through the locks in the New Orleans area. Wait time is as much as 28 hours.  Number of tows waiting for lockage this morning are: Algiers Lock - 12 in the river and 16 in the canal, Harvey Canal - 1 in the river and 9 in the canal, Port Allen Lock - 3 in the river and 3 in the canal.

c) Press Release issued by the district yesterday afternoon, that the Corps may operate the Bonnet Carre spillway. (Corps issued a press release on April 5th about this possibility.)

d) COL Lee, New Orleans District Commander and LTC Starkel, Deputy Commander, attending meeting and press conference with LA Governor Jindal today at 1500 hours.

Projected Activities Next 24 hours:

a) Additional personnel reporting to Bonnet Carre tomorrow to assist with increased monitoring of the structure.

b) Engineering team preparing to perform inspection at Old River and Morganza structures.

c) EOC will participate in MVD (Mississippi Valley Division at Vicksberg, MS) telecon and provide status reports.

d) MVN (New Orleans District) will continue to monitor flood conditions and assess situation.

e) The district will increase levee surveillance to seven days per week starting on Monday.

Media Contacts:

Melissa Sellers
Office of the Governor Press Office
Contact: 225-342-8006, 225-485-6654 (c)

Allison Morgan
 Related Information
Governor's Office
Parish Contact Directory



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