Local officials: Stay informed; get a game Plan

Music fest in downtown Houma Friday
July 11, 2018
Evacuations are now easier to and from Lafayette
July 11, 2018

Ten years have passed since Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes coped with a major hurricane. Hurricane Gustav was a Category 2 storm that made landfall at Cocodrie Sept. 1, 2008, then tracked northwest causing $15 billion in overall damage during its life-span.

Both parishes have their plans for response and recovery in place, with few changes that will affect the general public.

In Lafourche Parish, Sheriff Craig Webre and other officials are tightening up their information exchange protocols. Rather than rely on conference calls that can leave time in between, information between agencies will be communicated with greater frequency. 

“We work closely with parish officials and the school board and all other agencies to make sure that everyone shares the most up to date knowledge,” said the LPSO spokesman, Lt. Brennan Matherne. “Timely, updated information gets distributed to all the public agencies; we are doing some things to improve getting that information to the public as well. Street flooding, road closures, trees and power lines down, these are logged and we would get calls about them. At certain points of the day the parish would call us or we would call the parish. It will be done more regularly and more frequently, and in real time.”

In Terrebonne Parish there are no major changes to response or monitoring protocols. This marks the second year that the parish will have use of its Emergency Operations Center in Gray, Emergency Response director Earl Eues said.

A concern he and other public officials have is the potential for complacency, since a decade has passed without a major storm.

“It’s always the case,” Eues said. “The longer we go without a major hurricane the more lackadaisical people get. They let their guard down. Now is the time to review plans, look at their disaster kits and know that they are ready to go.”

Over the hurricane-latent decade, government workers and leaders have been busy building and then tightening-up first-line defenses against the damage water can do. 

Last week Terrebonne Parish signed permits for the Petit Calliou Bayou Lock System in Chauvin at Boudreaux Canal. The $9 million project is fully funded and ready to go to construction bid. This lock system will allow vessels such as shrimp, crab, oyster, recreational, and oil & gas vessels to come and go even if tides are abnormally high, along with helping to control the water levels in Bayou Petite Calliou. A piece of Terrebonne’s protection system, an extension of a project on Bayou Dularge, still needs to be linked. 

A major boost to the protection system, Parish President Gordon Dove said, is the addition of five specially built hydraulic electric pump units with backup diesel engines for strategic placement in different areas of the parish that might experience water problems due to a storm. More pump stations are also on the way, Dove said, further extending the margin of safety.

Culverts that fill with debris are a major part of the drainage system, and Dove said he has been working to replace damaged, rusted and rotting culverts. Public works crews are staying on top of others where litter makes for a hazardous and ineffective system. Residents are encouraged to look for places where drainage is thwarted by trash and to notify parish officials.

Terrebonne’s plan for allowing essential workers and business owners back into the parish after evacuation remains in place. Anyone owning a business who needs to make a plan for it should contact the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to register for the re-entry program, if qualified. 

Terrebonne Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said he and his personnel are ready for any challenge a storm brings. He has not purchased new equipment but says recently-added items like a state-of-the art communications center will play a key role if a tropical system tracks toward us. He also has deuce-and-a-half trucks that can aid in heavy evacuations.

“All our officers are ready. We go into a two-shift cycle, half days and half nights and we are prepared to work with all entities. We are geared to go,” Larpenter said. “I don’t predict storms, but they say the El Niño is gone, so if there are no winds shearing the tops off that is not a good sign for us in the Gulf.”

He also joined the chorus of officials warning that if evacuations are ordered people need to leave.

“They put not only themselves in danger but also put responders’ lives in danger,” Larpenter said. “I don’t want to put people in danger when we have in excess of 100 mph winds.”

Listen to law enforcement and your emergency operations center and get the real information. Rumors— spread from mouth to mouth or through social media—  can also place lives at risk, Larpenter said

“Don’t depend on friends on Facebook for your information,” Larpenter said. “Don’t rely on what you hear from any social media except for law enforcement or other official sources, because what you hear and see might not be accurate.”

Being informed before, during and after a disaster is, emergency officials agree, of utmost importance. In Lafourhce Parish, all emergency information gets routed through www.lpso.net, the website of the Lafourche Sheriff. In Terrebonne, the most up-to-date information will be at


“Our website will be the hub for any and all emergency information,” LPSO Lt. Matherne said. “Any emergency in the parish, there will be an emergency page up. Citizens can go in quickly to get the latest road closures. You will see where the page is updated. We will also be pushing things off onto social media.”

Terrebonne residents are also urged to sign up for text or telephone notifications of all kinds at www.tohsep.com/terrebonnealert, said Earl Eues.

The most important preparation that can be made, all emergency supervisors said, is to know where you are going, how you will get there, and what you will and will not bring. For more information and suggestions on making a hurricane plan, visit www.getagameplan.org. •