Louisiana State Police Warn Residents, Adjusters to Wait for Safe Conditions Before Venturing Out

August 29, 2005

As Hurricane Katrina moves out of Louisiana and into neighboring Mississippi, officials with the Louisiana State Police told Insurance Journal Monday afternoon that conditions do not warrant residents or adjusters venturing out to inspect damaged properties at this point.

Lt. Lawrence McLeary of the LSP, based in Baton Rouge, said that as conditions improve, that will be the time for assessing damages.

“At this point, we have our assets staged and we are prepared to go in and determine what the needs are for search and rescue missions. Unfortunately (1 p.m. CST) the weather is not settled where we can send people in safely. Once that is done, we’ll have a better idea of where we stand and what the needs are of the various communities in the New Orleans metro area.” McLeary confirmed that there was an apartment collapse in the Harvey area. “That has been confirmed, but what has not been confirmed are the injuries or the number.”

According to McLeary, when asked about how general evacuation procedures went in the greater New Orleans area, “As best as we’re able to determine, 500,000 people evacuated and that is a pretty sizeable number. Those that had the ability and wanted to evacuate, certainly were able to.”

For agents and claims adjusters wanting to inspect damaged properties, McLeary issued a warning. “Until an announcement is made, and our governor is currently doing a press conference, she is advising people it just is not safe enough to go in now. Before we’ll let anyone in, emergency services have to go in there and make a determination on the needs.

“We’re dealing with several issues,” McLeary continued. “We’re dealing with flooding, loss of power and all of the problems associated with that. Just in the New Orleans area alone where you have flooding, you’re going to have raw sewage, snakes, ants, so there are a lot of conditions where we don’t want people going back into.”

According to McLeary, if the storm had turned 10 degrees, “There may not be a New Orleans at this point, so we are very fortunate. We feel sympathy and empathy for those people to the east of us in Mississippi and Alabama, but it could have been a lot worse for us.”

McLeary said that work among the neighboring states is key to helping people out.

“In the pre-hurricane situation, we talked to officials in Mississippi because we institute contraflow. Once the contraflow plan is determined, all the local officials and parish officials in the affected areas will do several conference calls within the National Weather Service. Once contraflow is implemented, that is probably the most recognizable item that we do for people. That affects Mississippi because we contraflow into Mississippi. When people come back following the hurricane, you have to deal with the returning flow of traffic and we’ll have people staged in key areas (intersections) where we know there have traditionally been problems just so we can keep traffic flowing smoothly.”

McLeary also warned people to avoid driving on any roads with even a small amount of water resting on the surface. “Especially in the New Orleans area where streets are prone to flooding anyway, that’s why it is so important for us not to allow people to rush back in. We know people are concerned about their property, but even if you get there and everything is okay, there is still nothing you can do. You certainly don’t want to be in a house with no water, no power, etc.”

McLeary added that as of 1 p.m. CST, the only incident of looting reported (not confirmed) was at a Winn-Dixie in the downtown New Orleans area.

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