Mandatory Evacuation For Jefferson Parish

Emergency officials in Jefferson Parish, just outside New Orleans, have ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the entire parish. Jefferson Parish's Director of Emergency Management Kenneth Padgett talks about the order.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, the California dream. The latest in our series of life in La-la land. First the Army Corps of Engineers expects the levees to hold, but heavy rains are going to test Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. We talked to Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Management, that's Kenneth Padgett, last week about preparing for Hurricane Gustav. We're back with him now. Kenneth Padgett, how are things going there?

Mr. KENNETH PADGETT (Director of Emergency Management, Jefferson Parish): Things are going pretty well, considering.

CHADWICK: We - when we spoke last there was a mandatory evacuation issued for the parish. Have respondents complied, or are there still holdouts? We've heard from a couple of holdouts in New Orleans.

Mr. PADGETT: Well, I think we had a good response to that. I think people will remember Katrina and, with the weather warnings and stuff, we had a very good response for people to leave the parish.

CHADWICK: Are you watching CNN right now? Maybe you're just looking out your window.

Mr. PADGETT: No, I don't have the TV on right this moment.

CHADWICK: Well, I am, and I have been watching it this morning. There's video of water rolling over the top of a levee.

Mr. PADGETT: That's Industrial Canal in New Orleans.

CHADWICK: That's right. Still, wouldn't that make you a little anxious?

Mr. PADGETT: Well, it would, but our reporting systems we have, we have monitoring systems throughout the parish on our levees, on our drainage canals, on our pumping stations. Right now all of them are reporting well below flood stages.

CHADWICK: They are?

Mr. PADGETT: Yes, sir.

CHADWICK: So you're feeling like, even though the storm is coming through, it's not hitting directly where it did three years ago. This hurricane is following a slightly different path, so you think you're going to be OK?

Mr. PADGETT: Hopefully. I still got my fingers crossed, we still got a few more hours to go through, but right now we're feeling pretty confident.

CHADWICK: The storm was downgraded to a category-two hurricane just as it hit land. So, that's got to be good news for everybody there.

Mr. PADGETT: Oh, yes. The staff here, were all looking at the - upstairs in the ops room and stuff - They're looking at the weather, everybody's feeling much confident. Our field units - people who first responded are feeling better about the situation, we'll just wait for the past five - even more so that we can get crews out and do a real good damage assessment of the whole parish including the parts in the lower parishes, which will be closer to the eye itself.

CHADWICK: Now that the storm has hit land, what are the projections for where it will go and how it will go over the next twelve hours?

Mr. PADGETT: Well, my understanding, it's going to slowly drift north, stretching north west and then a little more to the west, and there's a possibility that it may slow down and maybe even stall near the Louisiana, Texas line.

CHADWICK: So, what are your plans now? What are you doing?

Mr. PADGETT: Waiting for the winds to drop down below 50 - sustained winds drop below 50. And at that time we send out all of our first respondents of police, fire, EMS, and our utility companies. Everybody goes out and does damage assessment report in their areas. Report it back to us. We make a priority listing, so we can get power back on if we lost any power. Get the resources back and so we can just bring our people back.

CHADWICK: But the winds are above 50 miles an hour, now. So, you don't have anybody out right now? Every body's just hunkered down.

Mr. PADGETT: Ninety nine percent of our people are hunkered down. We have a few of our - like the sheriff, he is out, and a few other higher ranking agency people are out, but most - 99 percent of our people are hunkered down in shelters.

CHADWICK: So, how long do you really expect that that's going to last?

Mr. PADGETT: We were told by our weather service for another three or four hours.

CHADWICK: Three or four hours. So, maybe by…

Mr. PADGETT: Will be between - I'm hoping between three - by around three o'clock we should be having our people out on the streets.

CHADWICK: Three o'clock, four o'clock this afternoon, you'll be able to know exactly what has happened. At least, begin to start to get an idea.

Mr. PADGETT: Right.

CHADWICK: OK. Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Management, Kenneth Padgett, watching Hurricane Gustav as it moves ashore and onto and through Jefferson Parish. Kenneth, thank you.

Mr. PADGETT: Thank you, sir.

CHADWICK: The presidential nominees are following the progress of Hurricane Gustav. We heard earlier from the Republican National Convention, which is beginning today. John McCain visited disaster relief center in Waterville, Ohio today, where he helped pack supplies for the Gulf Coast.

Barack Obama stuck to his early schedule, speaking at a Labor Day rally in Detroit. In his remarks he talked about the hurricane and what's happening along the Gulf Coast, and then he canceled a planned visit to Pennsylvania and, instead, went back home to Chicago. He said he's there to follow the developments with Gustav.

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