Floodgate damaged by Patricia remnants

Rain and wind related to remnants of Hurricane Patricia damaged homes and closed roads in Terrebonne and Lafourche Sunday and Monday.

But officials say the storm, which at its most powerful point in Pacific Ocean waters packed record 200 mph winds with higher gusts, could have had far more serious local effects.

“Without this flood protection system in southern Terrebonne you would have had entire communities flooded,” said Reggie Dupre, director of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District. “There would have been a failure in the Montegut forced drainage levee and flooding in Little Caillou and Dulac, dozens and dozens of homes instead of a few homes.”

Powerful water buildup, Dupre acknowledged, damaged the Bubba Dove floodgate, causing a 1-3/8 inch cable to snap during a closure operation Sunday.

“We were able to close it,” Dupre said. “This thing developed so quickly we had to close it, otherwise a lot of homes and businesses would have flooded in Dulac that didn’t.”

The Terrebonne Levee and Conservation Board scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday to authorize repairs and re-fittings.

A tugboat was required to complete tasks related to the Bubba Dove, Dupre said. Tugboat rentals and purchase of new cable were among the items scheduled for discussion. In addition, Dupre said, a new, more powerful winch system using stronger cable will also be discussed.

Overall, the levee system did its job, Dupre said, noting that at one point Sunday all of the parish’s floodgates with the exception of a structure in Gibson were closed.

The combination of surge – marine forecasts predicted offshore seas of 12 feet Sunday – coupled with winds from the southeast increased the flooding risk for Terrebonne. Due to the levee system’s protections, flooding was seen in places where it is not usually seen, including parking lots on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard in Houma.

The presence of heavy rains that dumped 11 inches in some areas of the parish and flooding in spots to five feet above sea level proved especially challenging.

“Because of all this rain the water builds up faster on the inside of the system than it otherwise would,” Dupre said. “Once it equalizes we open the flood gates immediately.”

In Lafourche Parish La. Highway 1 south of the Leon Theriot floodgate in Golden Meadow was closed Sunday, reopened Monday morning and then closed again Monday night.

Officials in Lafourche were closely monitoring tides and the weather system for signs of additional problems.

Lafourche’s handling of the weather problems was overall satisfactory, said Brennan Matherne, spokesman for Sheriff Craig Webre.

“I think people handled it, I think they understand,” said Matherne. “We did not get a ton of reports of people with water pushing into homes. People mainly stayed off the roads Sunday night. Ultimately this came out of nowhere and people really responded well by taking extra precautions and staying safe.”

The National Weather Service logged three storm-related damage reports Sunday.

At 4:50 p.m. a report of a tornado was received along La. 315 near Bayou Dularge causing what was described as “minor damage to a few homes.”

Weakly structured sheds, the NWS said, were destroyed and some boats along the bayou were flipped.

Thunderstorm winds or a small tornado downed large tree limbs in Lockport, according to a 6:33 p.m. report. In Chauvin, at 7:41 p.m. Sunday a roof was ripped off a home by what may have been a tornado.

No injuries were reported related to the weather in either Terrebonne or Lafourche parishes. •

Houma floodingCOURTESY