Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief
Email: | Twitter: @dmoutonwwl

MANDEVILLE, La. -- Three weeks before the start of hurricane season, St. Tammany leaders unveiled new equipment Friday to help homeowners protect their homes, four automated sandbag machines.

'They're a little bit faster. A little bit less labor intensive,' St. Tammany Director of Public Works Shannon Davis said when asked to compare the new machines to the old ones, 'But much more efficient.'

The old system consisted of conveyer belts on the backs of dumptrucks, and the bags had to be hand sealed. The new system automatically bags and tags at a much more efficient rate. The larger automated unit fills 740 bags an hour, the smaller unit fills 600 sandbags an hour.

The machines cost St. Tammany Parish $240,000, which Shannon Davis called money well spent.

'During Gustav and Ike,' Davis recalled, 'we put out about 175,000 sandbags for that event alone.'

The timing of Friday's unveiling wasn't by accident, according to Parish President Pat Brister, as the June1 start to hurricane season looms.

'It is piece of mind. And we want everyone to know that we are prepared. We want them to be prepared. The further we get away from Katrina and no more storms, we relax a little more,' Pat Brister said.

'We're still in danger when a hurricane comes, so don't take anything for granted but we surely wanted to start it off with new equipment because we're proud of it.'

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