Experts say Haiti is bigger concern than oil leak this storm season

By Keitha Nelson - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - University, private and government experts all agree the 2010 hurricane season could be one of the busiest ever, but the Gulf Coast's oil troubles are not the only concerns for experts this storm season.

Experts with the National Hurricane Center say their biggest concern this season is Haiti, not the oil spill that threatens many coastal communities.

Video taken by Dr. Lloyd Benson and his team at the Cathedral World Worship Center in Baton Rouge shows makeshift camps in Port Au Prince Haiti. Thousands of people are still living in tents following a massive earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12.

"As the hurricane season is coming in, what can they do? Benson questioned. "I mean, they are just in plastic tents."

As experts keep a close eye on Haiti, Mark Cooper, director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) said he is worried about the coast, Louisiana fishermen, their livelihood and everyone's way of life.

Nearly two months since the BP oil explosion, Cooper and his staff are hard at work. Now in hurricane season, the stakes are even higher and Cooper admitted the pressure is on.

"We're emergency managers," he explained. "We're used to this, but this is certainly different. We have planned for the worst case scenario, which could include being able to assist fishermen and others who may not be able to afford to evacuate."

As BP scrambles to completely cap the oil leak GOHSEP is thinking ahead, getting ready for what could be a very active hurricane season. Cooper the state also has to make sure BP and the Coast Guard have plans to evacuate.

"When we're doing contraflow of evacuations, we don't want to have additional personnel on our roadways. It impacts Louisianians getting out of harm's way," Cooper added.

Hurricane forecasts call for between 14 to 23 named storms this season, of which half could become actual hurricanes.

Copyright 2010 WAFB. All rights reserved.