For many in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, Hurricane Barry brought little to no damage. Most people from the area continued their regular routine following the storm: work, school, gym, home, etc.
Unfortunately for owners Lisa and Eddie Mullen of PAC Kayak Rental in Pointe-aux-Chenes, Barry took away their normal routine, as the storm virtually destroyed their entire business as it passed through the area.
"We were expecting slight flooding, but nowhere near what we got hit with," said Amanda Ekiss, owner of PAC Shack, restaurant and neighboring business to PAC Kayak. "Down here, I'm the only person that's left standing; everything else is completely wiped out. Next door to us [PAC Kayak], all that's left is a cement slab. There's nothing left of it."
Ekiss continued to describe how the 12 feet of water the hurricane brought in rushed through so furiously that it was able to move campers, a 1,000-gallon gas tank, buildings and almost everything else within the reach.
She said the hardest part, besides having to rebuild and restore what Barry did to her restaurant, was seeing people from the community downplay the storm, not realizing how badly it affected people in Pointe-aux-Chenes.
"...Some people in the community were saying 'Y'all scared us watching the news," and 'This was nothing,'" Ekiss said. "And that's hard because when we look outside, we've got nothing and they're high and dry. People are not aware of how bad it actually got here."
However, both Ekiss and Lisa Mullen acknowledge that many in the community have been showing their support for them and their businesses as they try to recover in the wake of Hurricane Barry.
They had supplies, such as food and water, brought to them by pirogue due to road closures. The Backpacker, the Louisiana outdoor store, hosted two "Ride the Bull Pre-Parties" fundraisers to raise money for PAC Kayak.
"We have had a whole lot of people that have called us, wanting to help and donate their time," said Lisa Mullen. "We appreciate all the support and the love we've had from the community."
Donations to PAC Kayak can be made on their website: packayakrental.com.
"You have all become our
family and we love each and every one of you. We have a long stressful road ahead of us, but with help, prayers and God's will, we will do everything in our power to once again be the caretakers of your marina," reads a statement by the Mullens posted on PAC Kayak's Facebook page. "It won't happen overnight. There is a lot to do even before we can begin to rebuild. But it will happen."
Reasons for the Flooding, and Future Protection of Pointe-aux-Chenes
"In the Montegut and Pointe-aux-Chenes area we saw tidal surges of over 9 feet against the levees in Terrebonne Parish," said Reggie Dupre Jr., the Executive Director of the Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District (TLCD). "This was greater than or equal to [hurricanes] Ike and Rita – the worst we've seen in modern history."
Dupre explained that when a storm's eye passes over the Morgan City area, like Barry did, it's the worst-case scenario for tidal surges in Terrebonne Parish. Dupre noted, however, that no levees breached during Barry, but there was some overtopping.
"There is a huge difference between overtopping and breaching," he explained. "Breaching is levee failure. Overtopping means water came over the design of the levee."
"So, we saw significant overtopping of the J2 levee (levee in the Montegut/Pointe-aux-Chenes area]," Dupre continued. "...The overtopping of J2 was able to take enough energy of out of the tidal surge and reduce it enough where the parish drainage levees were able to hold."
No areas under the supervision of the Terrebonne Levee & Conservation District flooded, including the northern area of Pointe-aux-Chenes, Dupre said.
"The southern part of Pointe-aux-Chenes flooded from Lafourche Parish. In other words, the part of Morganza to the Gulf between Pointe-aux-Chene and Cut Off is called Reaches K and L to Morganza," Dupre said. "For Reach K, a contract was just completed by South Lafourche Levee District, which involved dredging about six and a half miles of Grand Bayou. All you had on Reach K was raw dredge material, no levee. So, that raw dredge material overtopped and breached in a few areas on the Lafourche side of Pointe-aux-Chenes, which caused water to flood the southern half of Pointe-aux-Chenes."
TLCD, SLLD and the North Lafourche Levee District (NLLD) are currently in talks to quickly enhance the flood protection in the Pointe-aux-Chenes area in two ways, which Dupre credits Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove for creating.
For the first plan, SLLD are taking quotes to try to get the dredge material in Reach K shaped as soon as possible.
For the second plan, the levee districts are in talks to build a redundant levee system that runs from Oak Pointe in lower Pointe-aux-Chenes until it reaches better elevation locations in middle Pointe-aux-Chenes.
"It's a very bold plan," said Dupre. "But it's being worked on by the two parish governments and with assistance from the three levee districts."
Fighting fires is a skill.
There's more to it than just pouring water where there's a flame.
Local firemen sharpened some of those skills this week with some rare hands-on training that they believe will help them keep the public safe in future emergency events.
The Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department was given access to the abandoned Rienzi Apartments in the city along Canal Boulevard.
With access to the building, the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department provided live training to their firemen and also firemen with the Lafourche Crossing 308 Volunteer Fire Department and the Chackbay Volunteer Fire Department.
Benton Ford, an Assistant Fire Chief with the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department, said the experience is invaluable, adding that the focus throughout the week was on getting better. Firemen approached the training seriously and progressed — which will allow them to better serve the public in real times of crisis.
"We believe that any time we can expose our guys — from the seasoned firefighter all the way to a brand new guy just getting started — to a realistic environment with unique challenges, we can get better and learn so much," Ford said. "We challenged everyone at their respective jobs and positions in the past couple of nights and everyone I spoke to said they got a good challenge out of it and that they learned a lot."
Firemen treated the training like a live trial run for what could someday be a real-to-life apartment complex blaze.
Foret said firemen worked on several skills throughout the week, including forcible entry, roof top training and initial search and secondary search for occupants.
The training was a new challenge for firemen because of the environment.
The Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department has its own, state-of-the-art training center where similar exercises could be conducted, but Foret said firemen who've trained at the facility several times have gotten accustomed to the lay of the
With a new building, there were no tricks or shortcuts. Firemen had to rely on their instincts and the skills that they've been taught to complete their objectives.
Foret said there was no actual live fire in the exercises because of safety concerns due to neighboring complexes in the area.
The fire department also didn't want to cause an air quality issue by creating real smoke.
But simulated smoke was generated, which gave the volunteers the same effect.
"We created a safe white smoke and it gives us that visual representation that we'd have in a real-life situation," Foret said. "And it also helps to eliminate some of that normal feeling of someone walking through a room where you can see everything. The smoke eliminates those senses and makes it far more difficult. That adds a challenge to our firefighters who are doing their primary searching and when they're looking for objects. Just to be able to operate inside of that environment with a new and unique layout — it was just a rare opportunity and we're so grateful for it."
Foret said he wanted to thank JB Levert Land Company, the owner of the building, for allowing the fire departments to use the building for training.
Foret said during both training sessions, more than 75 firemen were able to attend.
The Thibodaux Police Department was also given access to the building to do similar exercises to polish up on their crisis situation techniques.
"(JB Levert Land Company) were community-minded and understood how valuable it is for us to have access to something like this," Foret said. "It's so beneficial to our members to be able to practice those things that we just can't easily simulate. It's not often that we get such an opportunity, but we're grateful."
One of the challengers for Terrebonne Parish President has withdrawn from the race.
Michel Claudet announced today that he will no longer challenge for the seat he once held from 2008-2016, a decision confirmed by his campaign to The Times on Thursday morning, then re-affirmed by a press release sent to our news desk.
The Times asked for a comment from Claudet via telephone, but he said he would not offer any thoughts on his decision aside from what was in his press release.
In it, Claudet said the decision to pull out of the race was difficult, but he added that the "timing" was not right for his run.
Claudet's campaign website is down and under construction. He had not posted on his Facebook page since Sept. 2018.
"After thoughtful consideration and a lot of soul searching, I have decided not to seek the office of Terrebonne Parish President. This is not a decision I have made lightly. I care very deeply about the future of Terrebonne Parish, but the timing for this run is not right for me. I sincerely appreciate the many people who have encouraged me to run over this past year.
"Serving as Terrebonne's Parish President from 2008-2016 was the greatest honor of my life," he continued. "And I am proud of what we were able to accomplish over my tenure. I still believe Terrebonne's brightest days are ahead, and I plan to remain an active member of our community."
Claudet said he was retired from politics after his second term in office in 2016, then announced in Sept. 2018 that he intended to run again, saying that he had a renewed passion and that he believed he was the
best person to lead Terrebonne Parish into the future.
Claudet was expected to be the most serious challenger to incumbent Gordon Dove, who has led the office since the initial retirement in 2016.
Also in the race is David McCormick, a school teacher and football coach, who is running on a platform to help the parish's "common man" regain its voice.
Dove has maintained throughout the race that progress has been made since his inauguration, pointing to storm protection and other areas where Terrebonne is now better off than they were before.
This past weekend was a test of those storm protection improvements and Terrebonne fare mostly well against Hurricane Barry, minus flooding in low-lying areas, a common occurrence in our area during storm events.