Today, the Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) hosted a Breakfast Briefing in Jefferson Parish about “Preparing Jefferson for Future Storms: What Hurricane Ida Taught Us About Response, Recovery and Resiliency.” This event, which was held at Copeland Tower Living in Metairie, featured three Jefferson Parish administrators who play key roles in the Parish government’s response to hurricanes: Joe Valiente, director of emergency management; Mark Drewes, director of public works; and Valerie Brolin, deputy chief operating officer.
Ms. Brolin participated in place of Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, who was unable to attend as planned. However, the event began with a video of the Parish President’s reflections on Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in August 2021 as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the state, and lessons learned from the storm.
Watch the full BGR event video:
Watch the Parish President’s remarks on Hurricane Ida and lessons learned:
Following those remarks, Mr. Valiente discussed the challenges presented by more frequent and intense storms. He emphasized that more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the United States in the past 5 years than in the previous 53 years. Of those that have struck the Gulf Coast in recent years, hurricanes Harvey, Michael and Ida were “late bloomers” — meaning they rapidly intensified from weaker systems before making landfall. The more volatile weather patterns reduce the time for government and residents to respond, and they increase the importance of advance preparations and investments to make communities more resilient.
Mr. Valiente, Mr. Drewes and Ms. Brolin also discussed key elements of their current hurricane planning, based on lessons learned from Hurricane Ida and previous storms. These include:
- Encouraging individuals and families to have a plan for evacuating or sheltering in place
- Identifying and contacting early those residents who are elderly or have special needs and assisting with their evacuation
- Having emergency contracts for personnel and equipment in place before the storm to supplement Parish departments’ response
- Expanding backup power generators for sewer lift stations and drainage pumps
- Conducting regular “tabletop” exercises to practice decision making in various storm scenarios
Mr. Valiente provided other valuable insights on evacuation strategies and the appropriate role of contraflow. Mr. Drewes also discussed water and sewer system improvements in Lafitte and Grand Isle since Ida, and the Parish’s work to secure FEMA reimbursement for storm-related costs.
BGR presented this Breakfast Briefing free to the public thanks to the generous sponsorship of:
BGR thanks everyone who attended this event and who watched the livestream online, as well as Copeland Tower Living for the meeting space. Scroll down to see photos from the event.