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Louisiana Prepares for Rita

September 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Now we go to an evacuation center in Rosepine, Louisiana, about 50 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico near the Texas border, where a short time ago I spoke to Sheriff Sam Craft.

Sheriff, do you have worries locally about how Vernon Parish is going to handle this storm if it comes by your area?

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: We’re on the very western, central part of the state. And the weather service says we can expect a minimum fifty to seventy mile an hour winds with possibly ten to fifteen to twenty inches of rain. We’re pretty well, we have all of our people in place. We are working double keeping our shifts open and working everybody. We are doubling up on our shifts. We should fare pretty well here. We expect to lose power in our parish. Everybody has back-up systems has those in place. So we expect to see some, you know, some pretty adverse weather conditions here.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, if the storm hangs around for awhile before moving on, what are the kinds of thing you have to worry about in your area?

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: Well mainly, what we will have to be concerned with in low-lying areas is of course some flooding situations. That’s probably the most, the biggest problem we will have will be some roads that will be underwater — you know, possibly some homes that may receive some water damage from flooding. And then, of course, along with the winds that we probably expect there to be some — you know, downed trees and downed power lines.

RAY SUAREZ: Can you get a tank of gas in Vernon Parish?

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: I think right now if you go to the right places, you can, yes. Probably half of the locations are out of gas right now. Some of them, though, have been able to receive some gas today and still have gas at this time.

RAY SUAREZ: Is this something that you are used to dealing with, not the storms, but having an extra couple of thousand people on hand as you are getting ready for it?

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: No, it’s really not. Of course, you know, during Hurricane Katrina we had probably fifteen hundred to two thousand evacuees here throughout the parish. Several years ago, we opened up shelters for storms. So it is not something we are accustomed to, but something we have to adjust to, and adjust to it and make it as comfortable as we can for the people that we receive.

RAY SUAREZ: If coastal areas are hit badly, might they be with you for a long time?

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: That is a possibility, yes. Some may not be able to return home, you know, when the storm passes. And we’ll just have to adjust to that and make the best of it.

RAY SUAREZ: Sheriff Sam Craft, thanks being with us.

SHERIFF SAM CRAFT: Thank you, sir.