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Aug 31, 2008
Governor Jindal's 5:30PM Update on Hurricane Gustav Preparedness Efforts

BATON ROUGE - Today, Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference along with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to give an update on state and federal preparedness measures surrounding the impact of Hurricane Gustav on Louisiana.

Governor Jindal said, "Our most up to date information from the Hurricane Center shows that the storm did not reorganize as well as it could have, which is good news; but, again, we expect tropical storm force winds overnight tonight and as early as late this evening. St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and Terrebonne Parishes will get tropical storm force winds by midnight. Those areas at the mouth of the Mississippi River will get hurricane force winds early Monday morning. The Hurricane Center said hurricane wind warnings will stretch from Lake Charles to Baton Rouge.

"The eye of the storm is expected to hit midday tomorrow, and the storm is predicted to leave the state before it stalls." The Governor added that Baton Rouge and central Louisiana should be aware of possible 70 to 80 miles-per-hour winds as the hurricane comes through the state, which will likely cause power outages and downed trees.

The Governor said that he visited Lakefront Airport earlier today to thank the National Guard for their support in evacuating medical patients out of South Louisiana. Additionally, the Governor said that this afternoon he signed a memorandum of understanding between Louisiana and Missouri and Tennessee for the use of their National Guard forces assisting evacuation and response operations.

SPECIAL NEEDS SHELTERS UPDATE:

The Governor announced that the state has worked with several states to identify shelters for special needs individuals, including 53,000 spots in eight states. The Governor said that there is currently no wait for non-critical patients for air evacuations, and the state has extra air capacity available.

The Governor said that region 1 (New Orleans) is done evacuating homebound patients and the city is currently evacuating their 73 remaining patients from hospitals now. Region 3 (Houma) - homebound and nursing homes are evacuated, and hospitals who wanted to evacuate have done so. Region 5 (Lake Charles) has reported one nursing home that now needs to be evacuated and the state is working to assist them. Currently, 84 out of 115 nursing homes in impacted areas have evacuated - which is around 8,000 individuals (at least 27 with state assistance), and 27 hospitals have had full or partial evacuations.

Governor Jindal also spoke about the risk of evacuating critically ill patients from hospitals and said that there are reports of three unconfirmed deaths that occurred during evacuation efforts. The Governor said that the state continues to help hospitals, nursing homes, and local officials work to evacuate people out of harm's way and his prayers go out to the families of those who have been lost.

EVACUATION SUPPORT UPDATE:

Governor Jindal said that seven states are helping Louisiana to shelter more than 29,000 citizens at 107 shelters. Texas has offered to shelter several thousand patients, Oklahoma has agreed to accept 4,000 general evacuees, and 150 medical patients from southwest Louisiana hospitals are expected to arrive at the Oklahoma Air National Guard Base at WillRogersAirport in Oklahoma City today.

More than 25,000 citizens are currently sheltered in Louisiana in 120 Red Cross shelters. Four state-run Critical Transportation Needs Shelters are full (10,000 capacity), two FEMA/Red Cross Critical Transportation Needs Shelters are full (5,500 capacity), and the five Medical Special Needs Shelters across the state still have several hundred slots remaining (649 patients currently sheltered there). Additionally, Louisiana continues to work with AL, AR, TX, OK, MO, KY, GA, and TN to provide additional shelter space for thousands of residents, as needed. Buses will arrive in Ascension and Lafayette once evacuations are complete for search and rescue operations, and more than 400 buses are still available in New Orleans.

The Governor said that 123 general population shelters are open in Louisiana and the local OEPs and Red Cross workers continue to take in those citizens seeking shelter.

Governor Jindal said that utility teams including 11,000 utility workers from out of state are staged and standing by to help turn back on utilities after the storm passes, and they will start working on the essential functions of hospitals, fire service, water, and sewer systems. The Governor said that around six to seven hours after landfall the state will start surveillance efforts to identify damaged areas. Additionally, the Governor announced that 96 percent of oil and 82 percent of natural gas in federal waters in the Gulf is currently shut in, in preparation for the storm.

Louisiana State Police estimates that 95 percent of the two million people expected to evacuate have done so, accounting for a total of more than 1.9 million people evacuating the coast - the largest evacuation in the history of the state.

SEARCH AND RESCUE UPDATE:

Governor Jindal said that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will work alongside the Coast Guard and FEMA and the National Guard during search and rescue operations. SAR operations will be based at three locations, and have determined three other forward-leaning bases, including: West Bank, Abbeville, and Nicholls State University.

The Governor said that 300 people with 200 boats plus 500 people with equipment from the federal government and other states will support SAR operations after the storm and for example California is now also supporting SAR operations by sending 100 people with 16 boats. New York and Michigan are also sending additional support units. There are already people staging at Camp Beauregard and there is capacity for 700 people at Lamar Dixon. Additionally, Mississippi has three 100-member search and rescue teams, which may be freed up to help Louisiana's efforts.

Governor Jindal closed by encouraging all media and residents to visit www.emergency.louisiana.gov for most updated information on storm. 

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