For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Contact: Suzanne Parsons Stymiest, 898-5243.


Parish President Kevin Davis State Of The Parish Speech

Eight weeks ago,   the eye of Hurricane Katrina hit St. Tammany Parish leaving destruction of a magnitude we could never imagine.   From Apple Pie Ridge to Madisonville, thousands of homes were flooded.  Many are destroyed. Across northern St. Tammany, trees and power lines snapped, crashing through homes and businesses.

Today, I want to give you an overview of where we stood on August 29th, a summary of what we have accomplished to date, and a report on where we are working today.

I rode out Katrina in the emergency operations center with 125 parish employees, law enforcement officers and emergency first responders.  As soon as winds died down to around 40 miles per hour, we began our assessment of St. Tammany Parish.  This is what we found:

At that time, parish government began working on five major objectives:

We accomplished these tasks as quickly as possible.  Within 3 days, 14 shelters were operational, 90% of our roads were passable for emergency vehicles, all full-service hospitals were operating in a limited capacity with generators, and the Red Cross began distributing food and water.

As of today, Monday, October 24th, 2005 we have accomplished these tasks:

These tasks were accomplished through a team effort that included:

 

These efforts were coordinated through our Emergency Operations Center.  The EOC was activated on Aug. 27 at 6:15 PM and remains in operation today.  At the EOC:

All task orders at the EOC are complete. 

We opened a Special Needs Shelter at Covington High School for all St. Tammany Parish citizens.  Covington High was chosen as the site because it is inland and on higher ground than much of St. Tammany.  This is the only special needs shelter operated by local government in Louisiana.  Statistics on this shelter include:

Thousands of St. Tammany Parish citizens are without homes today.  Approximately 12,000 structures were flooded and an additional 18,000 damaged.  According to FEMA records, about 45,000 families in St. Tammany have qualified for temporary living assistance.  Over 700 families have been placed in temporary housing as of this morning.

Despite the devastation and the delay in temporary housing, there is good news.

Water and Sewer systems posed particular problems for St. Tammany Parish.

 Immediately after the departure of Hurricane Katrina, the Parish Government began working with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to ensure that the two hundred and seventy-two (272) permitted community water systems were tested in a timely manner.  To date, each of these systems has been tested and all but two systems have passed, and thirty (30) have not been sampled due to continuing renovations and repairs.

For those residents and businesses that receive service from a small water system and are not sure if that system has been cleared, please call the Parish Department of Environmental Services at (985) 898-2535 for updated information.

For those residents living in the hardest hit areas, I want to assure you that we are coordinating closely with your private water and wastewater providers to ensure that services are provided in a consistent manner.  I am happy to report that Coast Waterworks community water and wastewater system(s) in the Eden Isles/Oak Harbor/Hwy. 11 area, and Sewer District 7, which provides wastewater services for the Northshore Beach area, are both up-and-running.  Coast Waterworks may experience service interruptions due to Cleco power restoration and LA DOTD debris clearing activities along LA 11, but they are working closely with Cleco and the DOTD to minimize these interruptions. 

I want to thank the many volunteers who have helped St. Tammany from including the Pastors Resource Council and the Red Cross volunteers.  Volunteer accomplishments include:

St. Tammany Parish Government is working to find temporary housing for all our citizens in need.  I ask those citizens who are living in tents or camping at their devastated homes to please contact the Red Cross.  They will help you and your family find a safer place to stay until housing is ready.

The most significant Executive Order that is still in effect is the ban on burning.  The debris on the sides of our roadways has the potential of fueling fires that can be as catastrophic as Katrina.  On Monday, October 24, a large brush fire broke out in Folsom burning roughly 4,000 acres and prompting evacuations in the area.

In many areas of the parish, fire departments must bring their own water to fight fires because of a lack of hydrants or low water pressure.  Since the hurricane, fire department calls are up 65%.  When we add the increase in fire calls with the traffic surge due to population increases, fire departments are not able to respond as quickly as they did prior to Katrina. 

For these reasons, I have called for a ban on all burning in St. Tammany until further notice.  I know this is an inconvenience for many citizens but it is necessary to protect lives and property at this time. 

We have opened temporary permit offices across the Parish to ease the rebuilding efforts.  As you know, the Towers Building in Slidell sustained significant damage and all parish offices at that building had to be closed.  We have opened a full permit office at the Levee Building, 61134 N. Military Road, to serve citizens in the Slidell area.  Temporary permit offices are also open at John Davis Park in Lacombe and by the Soccer Fields on Spartan Drive.  Satellite offices at the Hickory Barn and on Lee Road north of Lee Road Jr. High are open through this Friday.

The Department of Community Action has also relocated in the Levee building and is now open regular hours in both the new Slidell office and the Covington office on Florida Street.  The Department of Community Action is open to provide emergency assistance to low-income residents.

Debris pick-up is also a major issue in the parish.  As of Tuesday, Oct. 25, the parish has picked up over 2.5 million cubic yards of debris.  We estimate that we have 3.5 million cubic yards to go.  We are currently working in areas across St. Tammany picking up trees and other construction debris.  We have eight active debris stations and two debris staging areas. 

Marsh-mud clean up has begun in the Bayou Liberty and Avery Estates areas.  The pick up of refrigerators and other hazardous materials has begun, parish-wide,  under the direction of the Environmental Protection agency.

We have 311 debris pick-up crews working in St. Tammany Parish.  We estimate that all debris pick up will be complete in about six months.

We are now looking to the future.  Issues we need to address include

Traffic is now becoming a major issue in St. Tammany.  We conservatively estimate that our population has grown from 220,000 to 300,000 in the last several weeks.  We are taking steps to ease these issues.  At my request, the LA Department of Transportation & Development is re-timing signal lights in the parish to move traffic in a more efficient manner.  I also requested that DOTD re-stripe state roadways and turn roadway shoulders into traffic lanes, where possible, to increase traffic capacity and improve traffic flow on state roads.  The parish is taking similar steps on parish roadways.

I want to take a moment in closing to thank all of St. Tammany’s first responders, from our deputies to our firefighters to our public works crews.  You responded quickly and bravely in our greatest time of need.

I want to ask all St. Tammany Parish residents to be patient with the rebuilding process.  Katrina’s destruction came in one day, but it will take thousands of days to rebuild.  We must take our time during this rebuilding process to ensure that we preserve the quality of life we value in St. Tammany.  From protecting our natural resources to rebuilding neighborhoods, we are going to do it right.  We have one parish with one goal:  Rebuild together.
 

Thank you.