Cindy proves a good, dry run for most in Terrebonne
As national news networks touted Tropical Storm Cindy’s destruction potential and floodwater peril last Wednesday, Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove and levee director Reggie Dupre dined on fried chicken at Ceana’s Cajun Cookin’ in Dulac.
“Who would have dreamed that was possible?” said Dupre, a proud parent of the storm surge protection system that kept most of the parish safe. “All five fingers were kept dry. There was some water creeping in from the Lafourche Parish side of Pointe-aux-Chenes, but that’s because that portion isn’t tied in yet. No one’s homes flooded on the inside of the levees that I know of.”
Cindy was a coast-hugging system that made landfall June 22 early 200 miles west of Houma at Cameron, with maximum sustained winds of around 45 miles per hour. Terrebonne was not spared flooding totally, and a look at the areas outside of the hurricane protection system tells that tale. But Dupre, Dove and other managers agree that conditions could have been much worse, and have been in the past. Officials point to flooding in Plaquemines Paris, farther east from the storm’s center than Terrebonne, as proof of success.
“If it wasn’t for the new floodgates and levees that building we ate in would have been under water, the whole community,” Dupre said. “You put a little bit of water in somebody’s house is a catastrophe, water in the yard is an inconvenience.”
Terrebonne Emergency Operations Director Earl Eues said a new early prediction system that warned of Cindy’s potential helped officials get things in place, from their notification system to sandbags and sand. There are lessons to be learned from Cindy, he agrees, as from every other storm experienced and to come.
“Every storm is different, different angles, different speeds,” noted Terrebonne’s emergency manager, Earl Eues. “But it was a very good run on a small storm, and the men got the system closed. They held back a lot of water that would have otherwise come in.”
Parish Councilman Al Marmande was among officials to get a bird’s eye view of a critical protection component’s arrival.
A floodgate for Pointe-aux-Chenes had just come off of dry-dock when the storm was developing over the Gulf of Mexico, and workers rushed to get it in place and closed.
“You had to have seen it,” said Marmande, who accompanied Councilman Steve Trosclair to the site. “They were hanging off of that it with the wind blowing in the rain. It was like for this whole storm everybody was out and about and I think they did a really good job. They were out all night working on it. We have a few holes, Bayou Dularge and Falgout Canal among them. If our floodgate had been up we would have been 100 percent dry. But all the work over the years is coming to completion. It’s amazing what we have done in 10 years.”
Bids for the Falgout Canal gate are out and they will be opened soon, Marmande said.
One curiosity noted – after the storm – was the degree of rising waters in some area. Dupre said the combination of a late river-flooding season and an early tropical storm made for unexpected hydrology, particularly in areas like those fed by the Atchafalaya River system. Portions of Gibson and also Savanne Road hearding toward Houma had particularly high water. That was particularly tough for Gibson residents, who already had high water prior to the storm from riverine flooding.
Councilwoman Arlanda Williams said she has been keeping close track of effects on the area, which is in her district. She has been pushing hard for a pump purchase and has gotten support toward that end from Gordon Dove.
Enhanced storm safety was also due in large part to the contributions of Terrebonne Parish deputies, officials said.
“Yes, we were checking water levels and they were reporting it back, it’s what we do,” said Sheriff Jerry Larpenter. “Everybody was working well together. We always work as a team.”