Cristobal tests Preparedness for Rain Events in Terrebonne Parish
Terrebonne Parish was spared from the worst effects of Tropical Storm Cristobal, which brought three to four inches of rain throughout the area.
“We were very fortunate that it went to the east instead of our west,” said David Rome, Public Works Director. “And so therefore, a lot of the heavy rain was not even in Louisiana; it was in the Alabama area.”
In preparation for the storm, the Parish closed floodgates, put fill on levees and set up sandbag locations, among other precautionary measures.
Parish President Gordon Dove also issued a mandatory evacuation for Zone 1, which includes everything south of the Morganza to the Gulf levee system.
“For all of the storms from now on — anything outside the system — we will call a mandatory evacuation,” he said, “because last year what happened with Barry is we weren’t supposed to have a but four or five foot of water. Remember we had nine foot of water.”
“Residents of [Isle de Jean Charles] were stranded and the Coast Guard had to come get them,” Dove continued. “So out of precaution from now on, it’s going to be my policy that for any named storm, we will do a mandatory evacuation of Zone 1.”
The evacuation shelter, which has different safety measures in place this hurricane season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had two occupants, he said. He also added that all residents should still be practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands. “Don’t let your guard down with that,” he continued,” because we still aren’t over it.”
Days before the storm hit, the Hanson Canal Pump Station came online — with two of the four pumps running due having to use the backup generators that were not yet connected with permanent wires.
“They far surpassed my expectations,” Rome said. “’I’m still perplexed at the amount of water we’re able to move out of that system and the benefits — that not just the Bayou Black and Gibson communities are reaping but also the Houma communities off of Savanne Road and all. That water is given a whole lot more retention to those communities that we can bend to.”
Dove was also pleased with the performance of the pumps at Hanson Canal, and added, “They’re pumping a million gallons every four minutes and 30 seconds. Of course, when you get all four pumps running, it’s going to pump a million gallons every two minutes and fifteen seconds.”
Multiple pumps running at the Elliot Jones Canal and Cannon’s Landing helped the area as well, he noted.
“I think we were better prepared for this storm than we have been for any other storm in the history of the Parish,” Rome said.
“Terrebonne has never had this kind of protection, pump stations and all in the past,” Dove said. “We’re ready for any of hurricane. We hope none come, but we are ready if they do.”
Although the Parish is more protected than ever, Dove feels there are areas that can be enhanced for protection. “Lower Dularge, east and west, still has to be lifted…But it was in a lot better shape than what it was last year,” he said. “I’ve got to finish up the Montegut redundant levee..What they call the J2 levee, the [Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District] are lifting it as we speak.”
He also acknowledged efforts to finish the Reach K levee, which is a joint effort between the North Lafourche, South Lafourche and Terrebonne levee districts. “Even though it’s not in Terrebonne, it protects Pointe-aux-Chenes, and it protects water from going into the Intracoastal, which protects all of Houma,” he continued.
Moving forward, Rome said the Parish will identify the “what ifs” to analyze what impacts a bigger storm, or storm that the area falls on the worse side of, could have.
“I think we have a really good game plan. We’re still making our assessments on what we can do to improve what is already good. Kind of like in football: you can have a great plan but you gotta tweak it for the next storm because every storm is unique.”
“[Cristobal] was a test run, a very good test one,” Dove added. “I hate to say we needed it, but it doesn’t hurt to have one.”