Ouachita Parish is a major stop for storm evacuees. How local hurricane shelters are preparing?
"Every year, we prepare for the hurricane season," mentioned Kristie Bruce with Red Cross of Northeast Louisiana.
This year's hurricane forecast calls for fewer storms. Regardless, northeast louisiana is not letting its guard down.
Located farther from the coast, Ouachita Parish is where many south Louisiana evacuees look for shelter.
On Wednesday, Plaquemines Parish officials came here to West Monroe to sign an agreement stating that its residents will be allowed to stay in West Monroe evacuation shelters.
In the past, 700 Plaquemines Parish residents have taken shelter in West Monroe during major storms. Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, praises the new expansions and improvements to West Monroe's shelter facilities.
"We decided it worked so well last year, we'd come back up and show our appreciation for their partnership and the warm welcome they always make us feel here in West Monroe," stated Nungesser.
Similar parish-to-parish evacuation shelters are set up in Monroe, on standby for storms. We spoke with Bruce Watson, Monroe's Parks & Recreation Director, who explained that various recreation centers in Monroe are ready to shelter over 1,000 evacuees from Lafourche and St. John the Baptist parishes.
Terrebone Parish has agreed to use the Monroe Civic Center. It can hold over 2,000 evacuees.
"We know that we will house the majority of evacuees that come this way," said Charles Thomas, Monroe Civic Center's Director.
Red Cross of Northeast Louisiana operates 50 shelters and has over 200 volunteers in 11 of the state's parishes.
"Hoping that we don't have any need to have to open shelters," said Bruce. "But if we do, we're ready."
"I was just up in Bastrop," Bruce went on. "And looking at their center that they have up there. The old Walmart that's up there. And it's all set up and ready. They put in new restrooms and new showers."
These shelters will mean a lot to evacuees who sometimes have nothing but a cot and the clothes on their back.
"Having a heart and soul, and having god in your heart for those people that have no other place to go," Thomas said.
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