- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Emergency managers along the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast say they have their plans in place for the 2016 hurricane season which begins Wednesday.

State officials say it’s been several years since Louisiana and Mississippi have been hit by a hurricane.

“Some bigger storms like Andrew (in 1992) impacted the state during so-called slow years with little tropical activity,” said Mike Steele, spokesman for Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Many people have moved to Louisiana since Hurricane Isaac hit in August 2012 and may not understand the threat a hurricane poses, Steele said.

“We urge our new residents to be aware of the potential dangers from a tropical event,” he said.

For example, Hurricane Isaac stalled along the coast and then moved inland as a tropical storm andt caused flooding in areas that never had problems in the past, he said, adding that Louisiana is still working on recovery issues from the spring flooding and severe weather.

“Weather experts say if a storm develops early, while the water levels remain high on certain waterways, we could see new problems,” he said.

Mississippi emergency managers met with state and federal officials in Biloxi last week to receive new information about this year’s hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is rolling out a new early warning system that will pinpoint the reach and intensity of storm surge from an impending hurricane days before the flooding hits.

Chief Meteorologist Ken Graham at the National Weather Service Office in Slidell, Louisiana, briefed Mississippi officials on the new system.

“Storm surge is the number one killer from a hurricane,” Graham told The Associated Press.

“A more detailed version is expected to come online next year that could predict storm surges even before a system forms,” he said. Forecasters hope it not only will save lives but will give the public more confidence that an evacuation order should be taken seriously.

Over the last several weeks, Col. Richard Hansen, the commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans, said the corps has been working closely with emergency response personnel in preparation of this hurricane season.

The Corps of Engineers, Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East and Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West also have conducted operational exercises of structures such as the West Closure Complex, Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier and the three outfall canal closure structures to ensure that the flood protection system will perform as designed, he said.

“The greater New Orleans system is the best storm damage risk reduction system in the nation and will defend against a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year,” Hansen said. “However, there is always a chance for a storm larger than the system’s design so evacuation must remain part of the response plan.”

Officials in both states urge residents to have a plan, listen to their local officials and evacuate if the order is called.

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