What is in this article?:
- Hustling to beat Isaac, dealing with the hurricane's aftermath
- Emergency response, damage tally
- Proper prep, sheltering evacuees
- Assessments of Louisiana agriculture post-Isaac.
- LSU AgCenter prepares report on impact to state's agriculture sector.
- LDAF continue emergency operations.
Proper prep, sheltering evacuees
Proper preparation has been key for dealing with Isaac’s aftermath, says Strain. “Hurricane Katrina set a new standard. Previously, it was Hurricane Betsy and Camille. More than half our organization is ICS (Incident Command System) trained. We have an ICS in the office here and I’m also a sitting member of the governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“We do a lot of emergency work and drills. So, the system has gotten better and continues to get better as we become more refined and honed in what we’re doing. We work very closely and have defined missions and roles. But we also overlap and integrate to deal with problems.
By now, Strain is a veteran with such storms. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve dealt with Tropical Storm Faye, Hurricane Gustav, Ike and Isaac.”
For Fay, Gustav and Ike, there was almost $1 billion in losses to Louisiana agriculture. Those hit at peak harvest and devastated the entire state.
“Katrina caused heavy losses in the lower parishes,” says Strain. “The physical damages to infrastructure and homes were terrible with Katrina but the losses to agriculture weren’t as bad as with Fay, Gustav and Ike.
As for agricultural areas devastated by Isaac – where the storm remained on the coast for 18 to 20 hours – damage “is much worse than with the (earlier weather events),” says Strain. “Isaac just hung around in one spot with Category 1 winds and dropped 18 t0 20 inches of rain. We have a lot more debris fields, a lot more damage and a lot more loss of livestock.
“Initial reports are that sugarcane losses will be 15 to 20 percent at the center of the storm. Now, we have had good weather since and the cane is trying to stand back up. Farther away from the storm center, you’re looking at an estimated 10 percent in losses.”
Farther north in the state, “it just depends. Some areas got three inches of rain and wind gusts of 30 miles per hour. There will be lost cotton and soybeans.
“Isaac was so slow-moving. It brought in a lot of saltwater. Some of our orange groves – and we did salt testing yesterday – now have very high salt content.”
Strain says the state will ask the federal government for assistance – “probably on an ad hoc basis for each of the commodities and an indemnity program to deal with lost livestock.
“I want to thank everyone for their help during this. There has been tremendous response from so many people helping each other.”
One example of that help: the emergency shelter provided at the Dean Lee Research Station in Alexandria.
Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter regional director, hasn’t been out of the evacuation shelter much for the past 10 days. “We had a crowd -- around 2,000 evacuees were brought here. Many of them are leaving on buses today.
“We must have gotten close to five inches of rain. Considering what could have happened – and we got an incredible amount of rain and wind on Friday -- from what I’m told things are okay with our area crops.”