Water levels in the Mississippi are higher than they’ve been in a decade. Whether or not they go up or down depends on very iffy spring weather patterns across the river’s vast watershed. The forecast for the Atchafalaya through Friday is for continued rise.
River level forecasts are higher today than they’ve been since 1997, the last time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway to relieve pressure on the lower Mississippi — an action that was being contemplated again as this issue of
The Teche News goes to press.
Given the potential damage that could be wreaked on businesses and residences by flooding river and bayou waters, local officials were not hesitating. SMSO Capt. Ricky Acosta coordinated the operation as the waters continued to rise. The men took to plugging the subsurface drainage systems to prevent water from the flooded bayou from inundating Bayou Estates Subdivision. A heavy-duty vinyl balloon was placed in the pipe opening and then filled with air to block the water from back-flowing into the streets.
To do this, one of the team members, SMSO Major Terry Guidry, donned a wet suit, lowered himself into the flooded manholes, and felt around for the pipe opening. Assisting him were SMSO Lt. Col. Larry Landry, parish workers Robert Broussard and Leed Champagne, and a crew of trusties.
According to Champagne, the Public Works crew also sandbagged around temporary pumps that were installed in various places to assist the main pumps in the dewatering efforts.
This operation was considered of vital importance to the safety and well-being of the residents for more reasons than first meets the eye. Capt. Acosta, in conjunction with Fire Chief Ray Acosta, planned for the eventual isolation of some homes by the rising floodwaters. A house fire or medical emergency in a place first-responders would have difficulty reaching brings the potential for crisis.
Many citizens of the lower portion of the Parish were involved in preparing for the possible flooding.
Constable Carol Martin and his wife, Elsie, who reside in Stephenville, spent the weekend checking and reinforcing a personal flood protective levee that they built after their house was flooded 19 years ago. As further protection this time, they went out and purchased a new two-inch submersible pump.
At the nearby Stephensville Fire House, where the parish crews had stockpiled both sand and empty sandbags, many private citizens took advantage of this to fill their own brand of flood protection insurance.
And, to say that some of these men were far from spring chickens would be an understatement. The sand-bagging party included Elwood Stephens, age 84, related to the town’s founder), Melvin Verrett, 76, and Fire Chief Leonard Landry, age 71 — men who have seen the river rise before and know what it means.
Parish President Guy Cormier proclaimed a State of Emergency on March 26 in preparation for potential flooding. Gov.Bobby Jindal proclaimed a State of Emergency for Louisiana on March 27 .
St Martin Parish Government has sand delivered to the following five locations in Lower St Martin for resident’s use:
•Highway 70 across from Doiron’s Store.
•Stephensville Road across from Stephensville Fire Station.
•East Stephensville Road at Four Mile Bayou Road.
•End of Four Mile Bayou Road at the turnaround.
•Highway 70 across from Belle River Fire Station.
The bags area available at the Belle River Fire Station and the Stephensville Fire Station.
The sheriff’s office is also strictly enforcing a no-wake speed limit on all waterways in the area. The St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be joining the St. Martin Sheriff’s Office in the enforcement of the no wake zones. Violators may be fined $200 or serve thirty days in jail or both.
St Bernard Parish, which contributed 20,000 bags, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) have assisted St Martin Parish throughout this event.
For assistance residents can call the parish at (337) 394-2200, SMSO in Lower St Martin at (985) 384-9151 or (800) 738-3071 (toll free), or the St Martin Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at (337) 394-2800.