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4-H students plan hurricane mitigation for local extension office

News Release Distributed 06/13/14

ABBEVILLE, La. – A group of 4-H Club members presented the Vermilion Parish Police Jury recently with a proposal for improvements at the local extension office to strengthen it against hurricanes and other major weather events.

Student Anne Catherine LeBlanc of Abbeville, who is the state 4-H president, said the extension office was chosen for storm protection because of its importance to the parish’s 4-H program. “It’s pretty much our home away from home,” she told jurors during the presentation on June 11.

The 4-H students will present their plan at the national conference of the Extension Disaster Education Network in October.

“This is a youth hazard mitigation planning program we believe is the first in the country,” Debbie Hurlbert, LSU AgCenter extension associate, told the Police Jury.

The mitigation plan was written after the 4-H students spent several months studying the effects of natural disasters, such as wind and rain, and how to improve buildings to withstand tropical extreme weather events. The training was conducted through the Virtual Vermilion Environmental Science track in the Abbeville school system.

Faculty from the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU College of Engineering provided the curriculum and guided development of the mitigation plan, as part of a statewide community education and outreach project of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness that funded the project.

“It was remarkable the way it all came together,” said Alex LeBlanc, who is with the Abbeville schools. He credited LSU Systems President F. King Alexander with securing funds to buy equipment for the Virtual Vermilion project.

Clay Zaunbrecher, of Gueydan, told the jury that the recommendations include a proposal to elevate air conditioning units at the extension office to prevent them from being ruined by flooding. In addition, stronger doors and windows are needed to fully protect it, he said.

Ty Zaunbrecher, Clay’s brother, said the students produced a video, “Somewhere Over the Bayou,” which will be available soon for viewing on YouTube. The video, a spoof of the “Wizard of Oz,” depicts a fictitious rural area hit by wind and heavy rain, and the characters find ways to make their property less vulnerable to future disasters.

Clay Zaunbrecher plays the accordion soundtrack for the video. Also involved in the production were 4-H students Dre Boudreaux and Courtney Brasseaux.

Anne Catherine LeBlanc said when she started in the program last year, she knew nothing about hazard mitigation. “I don’t think any of us thought we had the power to protect something,” she said.

The students learned about flood zones and regulations. They planted trees for coastal restoration, installed a survey benchmark in Abbeville and learned how to use GPS technology. Speakers were brought to the class to talk about storm surges, flood maps, flood insurance regulations, emergency management and FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant application process.

Hurlbert acknowledged the Vermilion Parish administrator, Linda Duhon, and parish emergency manager, Rebecca Broussard, for helping the students.

At the Police Jury meeting, the students brought a roofing model that displays proper materials and techniques for building a hurricane-resistant shingled roof.

Clay Zaunbrecher said before the meeting he was only familiar with tin roofing construction. “I knew a little. Most of the roof construction I’ve done is with tin on a barn.”

Now he knows the importance of decking tape, synthetic underlayment and the proper type of roofing nails when installing a strong roof.

Bruce Schultz

Last Updated: 6/13/2014 3:06:15 PM

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