10 years ago thousands of people were evacuating out of the New Orleans area as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on Louisiana; and it was chaos. So in that time how has the state improved efforts to make such a large scale evacuation more smooth?
Department of Transportation spokesman Rodney Mallett says they now contract with bus services.
"So we can get buses down to help us," says Mallett. "We've worked with the Department of Education so we can get school buses and the Louisiana National Guard to provide personnel as well to help in the evacuation."
At the time Katrina approached, there was no real mechanism in place to get so many citizens safely out of harms way -- but Mallett says now there is.
He says one of the important things they've learned in dealing with past contraflow situations, is to work closely with our neighbors.
"Mississippi and Texas and throughout the Gulf Coast so that we work together," says Mallett. "We have a meeting with those guys each year to go over contraflow plans."
Mallett says they have also expanded the Motorists Assistance program so that in a mass evacuation situation, there would be more vehicles out on the road to help out vehicles that get stranded in travel lanes.
He also says they have since added traffic cameras on interstate systems in metropolitan areas.
"So that we can monitor anything that is going on and provide that information via tweets and emails and websites to the traveling public," said Mallett.
Click here to see a video from DOTD which outlines the plans in greater detail.
The St. Landry Parish town of Sunset is mourning the loss of Police Officer Henry Nelson. 35-year-old Harrison Lee Riley is accused of shooting and killing Nelson in the line of duty Wednesday while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Sunset Mayor Charles James says the town will get past this tragedy.
"It's a mark on our spirit, at this point, and something that we can't explain and that's understandable because such evil is not explainable."
Riley is also accused of stabbing three women in the incident, killing 40-year-old Shameka Johnson. James says this incident has really shaken the town of approximately 3,000 residents.
"There isn't a situation where something of this magnitude takes place and it doesn't effect the whole community because everyone pretty much knows everyone."
Riley faces charges of first degree murder of a police officer, first degree murder, and attempted first degree murder. James says he knew Nelson since he was a child and he will be someone who won't be forgotten.
"A very good gentleman, very gentle, very patient and he was effective. He did his job well."
The East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office and Capital Area Human Services are
teaming up to raise awareness about the growing heroin and synthetic marijuana
problem in the area. Coroner Dr. Beau Clark says his office has already seen 24
heroin overdose deaths so far this year. He says the message of this campaign
"The premise of the campaign is that heroin is deadly and synthetic marijuana is poison and certainly we don't want the coroner to be the last ride."
He says at this rate, East Baton Rouge Parish could surpass the record of 35 heroin overdose deaths recorded in 2013. Clark says it’s not a coincidence that this campaign is being launched at this time of year.
"So if we look at the few years of statistics we have, it's the fall time seems to be where we see a drastic increase in the number of overdoses."
He says they’ve seen an uptick of heroin overdoses in the fall over the past few years. Clark has confirmed three deaths this year directly from synthetic marijuana use, but those are much more difficult to determine with current testing methods. He says the ultimate goal of this campaign is to save lives.
"Two types of scenarios that I see that ultimately result in death that are completely 100% preventable by not using heroin and not using synthetic marijuana."
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture says its new mobile pet shelter is ready for use. Commissioner Mike Strain says the tractor trailer can be used to evacuate up 55 domesticated animals in the event of an emergency.
“It is a state of the art mobile pet shelter and it has cages, just like in my veterinary clinic, backup generator, battery power, washing station, climate control, it is well lit, it has stairs and ramps.”
Before the mobile shelter, they were loading pets into 18-wheelers to transport them during natural disasters which was very difficult and not as safe. He says if a natural disaster strikes and you can’t take your pet with you, when you come to an evacuation point, LDAF will provide safe transportation to a mega pet shelter.
“We’ll be using those responses to have a place where we can treat animals on site and deal with any specific emergency such as a hurricane, tornado and others.”
Strain says 40,000 of the $80,000 needed to complete the project was donated by veterinary foundations. He says they want to ensure all animals are safe and well taken care of in the event of an emergency.
“It is part of our duty at the Department of Ag and Forestry, we are responsible, amongst many other things, for the evacuation and treatment of pets and animals during emergencies.”
Researchers at the University of Louisiana Lafayette New Iberia Research Center are testing an Ebola vaccine for wild apes. The Research Center says Ebola is one of the leading killers of gorillas and chimpanzees. Division Head of Research Resources at the center Jane Fontenot says the vaccine is similar to a rabies immunization and this testing could benefit future vaccinations in humans and other wildlife.
“With the recent Ebola crisis, it’s even more relevant than ever so this really is a great program to benefit chimps in the wild.”
Fontenot says there have been other wild ape vaccination programs in the past, but were difficult to complete because they required three different shots over a span of time. But she says now they are testing an oral vaccine in a controlled environment.
“While we’re doing the study we’ll be able to monitor the chimpanzees very carefully. We’ll be able to assess whether there are any ill effects with the vaccine. Everything from food intake to activity levels.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa took the lives of about 11-thousand people. The global effort is led by Apes Inc., President Dr. Peter Walsh who says this testing could help pave the way for an oral vaccination for humans.
“We’ll take the vaccine, we’ll put it in a bait that the animal will eat, then the gorillas and chimpanzees will be protected from the Ebola virus and so if it’s successful we’ll go out and start trialing it in Africa.”
President Barack Obama visits New Orleans today and he’ll visit areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago. Between the Obama and Bush administrations, a reported 71 billion dollars in federal money was allocated to assist recovery efforts in the region. UNO Political Science professor Ed Chervanek says while the federal money helped, the recovery didn’t accelerate until Mayor Mitch Landrieu got into office.
“He brought in people who had contacts with the federal bureaucracy and I also think it helped having Senator Mary Landrieu in the senate, helped kind of grease the wheels getting the federal government to move.”
Chervanek says the federal government did supply billions of dollars to the recovery but is also responsible for the damage to New Orleans because of an inadequate flood control system. He says President Obama did the best he could to aid in the rebuilding of the Crescent City.
“So I think the Obama administration was attempting to make amends on that particular issue and that it seems that FEMA has been much more cooperative under the Obama administration than it was under the Bush Administration.”
Chervanek says Obama wants to make New Orleans a showcase of his administration to separate his administration for Bush’s. He is surprised former President George W. Bush is coming on Friday and says he would’ve thought Bush would stay away.
“I think it is one of the biggest regrets of his presidency and it basically changed the character and tenor of his presidency and that his approval rate dropped significantly and never really recovered after that.”
Another Louisiana policeman has been shot dead in the line of duty. Sunset Police officer Henry Nelson was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.
(suspect pictured: Harrison Lee Wiley Junior)
St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz says the suspect, Harrison Lee Wiley Junior of Arnaudville, fatally shot Nelson in the front yard of the home and then stabbed three women he was arguing with.
"One he killed at the scene, two were transported later to the hospital," says Guidroz. "One of those two is in critical condition at a Lafayette General Hospital."
The other fatal victim has been identified as 40-year-old Shameka Johnson, who is a sister of Grand Coteau Mayor Shaterral Johnson. Guidroz says Officer Nelson was fatally shot in the front yard of the home where the stabbings occurred.
"A fight ensued between the officer and the suspect," says Guidroz. "The suspect had a gun and shot the officer."
One of surviving victims is Wiley’s wife, Courteny Jolivette, who was airlifted to a hospital in Alexandria. Wiley is in police custody, but not before he barricaded himself inside a nearby convenience store.
Guidroz says they believe Wiley was on some sort of illegal narcotic, but they are not sure what.
"Anybody that's armed with a weapon and on this particular type of drug like bath salts just gets it into his mind that he will hurt you," said Guidroz.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission has approved the merger of Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States Louisiana. The single utility company will be called Entergy Louisiana and the consolidation will take effect in October. Entergy Louisiana President Phillip May says they anticipate this will mean up to $140 million in savings to customers.
"We are willing to guarantee $107 million dollars in credits to our customers on their bills," said May. "Customers should be able to see that as early as December 1st."
May says the merger of the two Entergy units will save customers at least $107 million dollars over nine years, which translates to an 11-dollar savings for the average customer in the first year.
He says this larger and more financially strong company will allow them to better obtain capital required to improve systems.
"To upgrade our grid, replace our aging power plants and make them more efficient," said May.
May says the combined company expects to invest more than $5 billion dollars in upgrades over the next four years to boost industrial load growth and meet the demands of our growing economy.
He says this means more major business customers will be attracted to the state.
"Louisiana is experiencing an industrial renaissance and this business combination will provide us with the strength to invest and attract those customers to Louisiana," said May.
The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office says accused cop killer Kevin Daigle has additionally been charged with murder in the death of the man he was living with at the time.
54-year-old Blake Brewer of Moss Bluff was found dead in his home after the incident in which Daigle allegedly shot and killed Trooper Steven Vincent.
Sheriff Tony Mancuso says Daigle was driving Brewer's truck when he shot Trooper Vincent in the head. Prior to that, he says investigators believe Brewer was shot in the torso by the suspect in his home with a shotgun.
"Although we have not gotten any scientific results yet, possibly the same shotgun that was used in Trooper Vincent's death was used to kill Mr. Brewer," said Mancuso.
State Police has charged Daigle with first degree murder of a police officer and there is no bond. For Brewer's death Daigle is additionally charged with 2nd degree murder, theft of a motor vehicle and possession of firearm by convicted felon with a $1.6 million dollar bond.
Mancuso says they believe Brewer had let Daigle stay at his home.
"Daigle would wander from place to place and live certain places for so much time and at this particular time he'd been staying with Mr. Brewer as his friend," said Mancuso.
A new poll by Triumph Campaigns shows Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards neck and neck in this year's governor's race. The telephone survey of over 2,000 respondents shows Vitter leading with 31-percent of the vote followed by Edwards with 30-percent.
Pollster Justin Brasell says they kept this survey focused solely on the governor's election to really get a good look at the race.
"Rather than asking all the questions we normally ask about other statewide races, we wanted to keep the survey as short as possible so we could get a lot more respondents, get the margin of error down."
Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle come in with 14-percent and 13-percent respectively. The survey has a margin of error of 2.1-percent. Brasell says the big question is whether Dardenne and Angell can do enough to shake this race up.
"Is anyone able to spend enough money to overcome Senator Vitter or change the dynamic where Senator Vitter is headed to a runoff with Edwards? We'll just have to see."
The survey shows that 11-percent of respondents are undecided. Brasell is not sure what kind of impact this will have on October's election.
"Certainly there's still some people uncommitted who are leaning one way or the other and could still change their minds, but it's still a pretty big lead for Vitter and Edwards at this point."
The Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish deviates from the state party in endorsing incumbent Buddy Caldwell in this year's Attorney General's race. The Republican Party of Louisiana threw their support behind former congressman Jeff Landry.
East Baton Rouge GOP chairman Woody Jenkins on the endorsement.
"Well, really Buddy Caldwell has an exemplary record when it comes to standing up for conservative values and we've cited 12 different things that he has done."
He lists the AG's attempt to block Obamacare and filing suit to lift the President's moratorium on drilling in the Gulf as a couple of examples. Jenkins says this endorsement is in no way a criticism of Landry.
"Based on experience and based on philosophy we feel like Caldwell is a great conservative doing a fine job as Attorney General and deserves to be re-elected."
Jenkins says when you have more than one Republican running for a political office a difference of opinion like this could happen. There are three Republicans running for the AG's office, including Martin Maley. Jenkins says Caldwell's litigation experience is a real plus.
"He got the BP oil settlement, $8.8 billion for the state of Louisiana, which is actually the largest judgement in history, anywhere."
The Louisiana National Guard, which played a huge role during the Hurricane Katrina response, has dedicated an exhibit to the destructive storm at their Jackson Barracks museum in New Orleans. Captain Heather Englehart says one of the biggest parts of the exhibit is a Huey helicopter used to save thousands trapped on rooftops.
"That helicopter was one that was kind of famed or known for having one of its skids go through the rooftops during Katrina.”
Englehart hopes the exhibit shows the soldiers’ spirit of hope and determination to help during Katrina and the rebuilding efforts that took place. She says the National Guard flew in around 32-thousand guardsmen to Louisiana to rescue those stranded during the flooding.
“Wow, this thing was so much greater response wise then I ever could’ve imagined. The engineered search and rescue, the engineer operations, commodity distribution. It was so wide spread.”
Englehart says the 10th anniversary exhibit will be open for the next year but they’re working to keep a permanent display in the museum for years to come. She says the Katrina display has interactive stations where visiting survivors can share their memories of Katrina, as well as, large photos and paintings of the destruction and flooding along with other discovered artifacts.
“We do have an amazing collection on loan to us from the state museum and some larger than life panels and some other items that came in, local artists around that area we’ve been able to exhibit, as well.”
State Police say a high-speed chase that began in Carencro ended in Duson with one trooper injured and four State Police units damaged. Master Trooper Brooks David says Carencro Police asked for assistance with this pursuit around 7:30 this morning.
David says the pursuit really became dangerous when the vehicle entered Interstate 10.
"The speeds got up to over 110 miles per hour. The vehicle started running other vehicles off of the roadway and hit our State Police units."
David says the suspect vehicle exited the interstate in Duson and when the driver tried to re-enter the roadway, troopers took action.
"They took legal intervention and blocked in his vehicle and rammed his vehicle to make it come to a complete stop."
He says the suspect appeared to be highly impaired at the time of his arrest. One trooper received minor injuries in the incident and was treated at a local hospital. David says it's unclear what started the chase, but the unidentified man is in a lot of trouble.
"Carencro PD has charges for what happened inside their jurisdiction. State Police will handle charges for everything outside Carencro's jurisdiction."
A grand opening ceremony takes place today for the brand new $1.1 billion dollar University Medical Center in New Orleans. The 446 patient facility was constructed to replace the old Charity Hospital which never reopened after Hurricane Katrina. UMC spokeswoman Siona LaFrance says the hospital is 2.3 million square feet and employs 2,000 people.
"It includes our hospital building, outpatient clinics, inpatient towers and for the first time really since Katrina we can provide all of those services to our patients in one location," said LaFrance.
LaFrance says they began seeing patients on August 1st and today Governor Bobby Jindal and Mayor Mitch Landrieu will be on hand for the celebration of the opening.
She says they feel this new facility represents a new era in healthcare.
"There's state of the art equipment and it's just a beautiful healing environment," said LaFrance.
LaFrance says since Katrina happened 10 years ago, medical services have been scattered across the city and the opening of this UMC complex signals the return of top-notch medical care. She says it also marks a milestone in New Orleans' recovery from the storm.
"It's one of the things we can really point to as an indicator that we are making huge strides in becoming the New Orleans that we want to be," said LaFrance.
It looks like self-financing is becoming a trend for political candidates in Louisiana. LaPolitics-dot-com Publisher Jeremy Alford says seven statewide candidates reached into their own pockets and loaned money to their campaigns.
Alford says it's not unheard of to have a self-financed candidate in a major state election.
"But to see seven statewide candidates, including an incumbent and a regional office holder, to loan themselves money in a single fundraising quarter is pretty surprising."
He says in the last fundraising quarter, statewide candidates collectively loaned themselves over $1.3 million. Gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle loaned his campaign $122,000 as well as taking out a bank loan for an additional $253,000. Alford says fundraising is becoming more difficult because many candidates are kind of picking over the same pool of donors.
"I've interviewed a couple of fundraisers and there telling me that the folks who are cutting checks are cutting smaller checks than usual. There are some guys that they've talked to that said if they cut another check their wife was going to kill them."
All three declared candidates for Attorney General, including incumbent Buddy Caldwell, have turned to self-financing. He says Super PACs are involved in the state election for the first time and that's another reason campaigns are finding money hard to come by.
"Candidates are seeing some of their top donors rather give gigantic checks to Super PACs, which can collect unlimited amounts of money, rather than nickel and diming it with their campaign."
If the public wants to help out the family of fallen Louisiana State Police Trooper Steven Vincent, there are a couple of ways to do so. LSP Sgt. James Anderson says there are two accounts set up for the public to donate money that can assist Vincent’s widow and 9-year-old son.
“Visit the website online at LAtroopers.org, alternatively an account has been set up in Trooper Steven Vincent’s name at Capitol One Bank.”
Anderson says the donations can be made at any Capitol One nationwide and all funds will go directly to Vincent’s wife, Katherine. He says Steven was an extraordinary person and the family is doing their best to cope.
“Steven is one of those guys, he’s friendly, he’s outgoing, he’s approachable, just a terrific guy. He was a good friend, it’s been tough. It is senseless and totally unexpected.”
Anderson says Vincent’s funeral will take place Saturday at noon at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Lake Charles. He says Vincent’s family made the decision to donate his organs and seven organ transplant recipients have already been identified.
“This is just an extension of Steven’s caring and loving personality. The silver lining in this is that Steven will continue to help his fellow man for many years to come.”
This week’s fatal shooting of State Trooper Steven Vincent raises the number of on-duty officer killings to five in Louisiana in 2015. There were no on-duty officers fatally shot last year, only one in 2013 and two in 2012. So why the high number this year? Professor at the LSU School of Public Health Peter Scharf says there’s a variety of factors.
“So many departments do not have two person cars, we’ve had a couple of incidents in New Orleans that could’ve been prevented if we had two person cars.”
Scharf says training needs to be pushed up and officers need a more heightened sense of awareness. He says cop killers are sociopaths and show no remorse for what they’re doing.
“They have a will to do what they want to do, so he’s manipulative, no empathy and really no anticipation of consequences. These are dangerous, dangerous folks.”
Scharf says with the high number of police shootings, hyper vigilance from officers goes up, so it’s up to sheriffs and police executives to calm both officers and citizens down. He says the recent demonizing of police officers is also not helping….
“We need these folks, these men and women to be out there, we need them to be vigilant to keep us safe. If we can’t keep them safe, no good things are going to happen and lots of bad things will.”
Army officials announce about 1,000 infantrymen from Fort Polk's 3rd Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Afghanistan next month. Base spokesperson Kimberly Reischling says the unit will be serving as advisors to the Afghan National Defense Security forces which includes their army and police.
"They'll be giving advice to the Afghans on how to sustain their capabilities and building national systems that are self-sustaining," says Reischling.
A ceremony for the soldiers deployment will be held on the base September 3rd.
Reischling says Afghanistan is now capable of securing their own country and the focus of this mission will be to advise them how to maintain security over time. She says this mission continues to evolve because the capability of the Afgan security institution keeps growing.
"Hopefully when they deploy they'll be sending us stories back home so that we can keep the community informed about what they're doing over there," said Reischling.
This summer the state Department of Health and Hospitals has reported three water systems in the state that tested positive for the brain eating amoeba. State Health Officer, Dr. Jimmy Guidry, is not surprised about these results.
He says these discoveries are not likely due to a sudden appearance of the amoeba in water systems.
"We're now able to check for it. We now have a test to check for it, so we're finding it. So it looks like, 'Oh my God! The brain eating amoeba's taking over our water systems!' That's not the case."
Guidry says the public should be aware of the discoveries, but not alarmed. He says improved testing techniques now allow officials to better detect the amoeba. He says this amoeba has probably been in our water systems for years.
"It wasn't something we knew about. It wasn't something that we checked for. So that's why it looks like we're finding more and more systems. I'm not surprised that we're finding it, because we're looking for it differently than we did before."
He feels officials are doing something right because there are no widespread infections from the amoeba being reported. Guidry reminds residents that the water in systems where the amoeba has been found is safe to drink, just avoid getting that water up your nose.
"I'm not talking about just in your sinus, I'm talking about way up here where it burns. You know it's up there when it gets up there. That's not easy to do. It takes pressure and it takes quite a bit of water to get it up there."
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is
accepting applications for the “Wildlife Enforcement Cadet” position until
September 9th. LDWF Spokesperson Adam Einck says they want to
bring in new recruits to bolster the ranks they have in the field and the plan to enroll around 24 cadets for training which will begin in December.
“The six months of training is pretty grueling, we do want people to have a love for the outdoors and can also make it through out six month academy, as well.”
Einck says the cadets will train at the LDWF’s training facility at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center in Baton Rouge. He says they’ll be taught boating laws, state and federal wildlife and fisheries laws and other law enforcement training.
“Since they’re going to be wildlife and fisheries agents, we’re going to spend a lot of their training about the game laws and the conservation laws in the state, whether that be duck identification, all the fish laws and then also the game laws on land.”
Einck says they’re searching for men and women who want to make a difference in wildlife conservation. He says applicants can apply online at the Louisiana Civil Service website.
“From there you can search for Wildlife Enforcement Cadet, the position is now open. They also need to take a civil service exam, which is listed as part of the requirements on the Civil Service website.”