JEFFERSON PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish officials are warning citizens that despite unprecedented flood protection, there are no guarantees in the event of a hurricane.
The storm season starts in less than two weeks, and parish officials want residents to begin preparing now for an evacuation that they will hopefully not need.
It's been three years since Hurricane Isaac tested Jefferson Parish's new storm defenses. While Jefferson Parish has higher levees and better pumps and floodgates than ever before, parish officials warn that nothing is perfect.
"Every storm is different," said Parish President John Young, "and we have to react depending on what Mother Nature throws to us."
Lower Barataria remains extremely vulnerable, and though a new ring levee is under construction, it's still years away from completion. That project is not fully funded. Neither is long-term maintenance of newly built levees and floodgates.
"Certainly on the west bank we put a 10-year projection out. There will be a shortfall at some point in time," said John Monzon, the regional director of the Southeast Louisiana flood protection authority-West.
Right now, the law requires local government to pay for 35 percent of flood protection maintenance costs, but Sen. David Vitter has proposed having the Army Corps of Engineers foot the entire bill.
"I support that wholeheartedly. We need the federal money to keep the system moving forward," said Jefferson Parish Councilman Rickey Templet.
Even though flood protection is being reworked for a major portion of East Jefferson, officials say the ongoing pump-to-the-river project shouldn't impede flood protection in the event of a major storm.
"The short answer is no, and it will be a vast improvement," Young said.
But it won't be finished until 2017. There's also help on the way on the front line of storm defenses with construction of a new land bridge that will extend across much of lower Jefferson from Plaquemines to Lafourche parishes.
"This is a football field wide, 14 miles long. It's an actual berm," Templet said.
None of it can guarantee homes won't flood or sustain wind damage in a bad hurricane.
"We can't rest on our laurels and be complacent," Young said.
Officials want residents to start trip-checking cars, stockpiling food and batteries and finalizing evacuation plans now.
Officials say recent improvements to the Huey P. Long Bridge and the I-10 between Causeway and Clearview should help speed evacuations. They urge residents to go to Jeffparish.net to register for re-entry placards and transportation for the elderly.