Parish preps for Gustav

Wade McIntyre

With Gov. Bobby Jindal’s pre-landfall federal disaster declaration Wednesday in anticipation of a possible hit by Hurricane Gustav on Louisiana’s coast early next week, Ascension Parish residents began the familiar preliminary preparation process of bracing for the storm.

While residents trekked to stores for batteries, water, canned goods and portable lighting units, and filling fuel tanks and portable containers with gasoline, South Louisiana parish presidents stepped in line behind the governor with their own early responses to the storm.

Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer planned to declare a state of emergency in his parish Thursday evening, calling for a voluntary evacuation of residents in areas south of Interstate 12 and Hwy. 42 starting at 7 a.m. Saturday. Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez announced a day ahead of time a press conference for 9 a.m. Friday on third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, in which he was expected to issue his own parishwide state of emergency.

Ascension Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Richard Webre said Wednesday his agency was meeting with parish agencies who would be involved with a possible hurricane.

“We have begun prepping supplies and sandbags for flood control putting bags at fire stations and pre-designated locations,” he said. “We’ve also coordinated planning with our utility companies, the school board, National Guard and police.”

One of the triggers for OEP to begin stepping up its efforts in preparation of Gustav will be when the storm reaches longitude 80W, Webre said. Hurricane tracking maps on Thursday afternoon projected Gustav reaching that point late Friday morning.

The 9 a.m. Ascension Parish press conference Friday was called jointly by Martinez and the Ascension Parish Council and to be held in the parish courthouse on S. Irma Boulevard in Gonzales.

Webre was scheduled to provide an update on the status and actions of the OEP and what preparation step residents should take. The briefing was also scheduled to be televised on Cox and EATEL?Cable Channels 21.

Parish officials anticipate that Ascension Parish will begin being impacted as soon as a contra-flow evacuation plan for south Louisiana is placed in effect. Early this week area hotels started filling up through early September in anticipation of a potential mandatory evacuation.

At the Days Inn in Gonzales, the hotel turned on its No Vacancy sign Tuesday, and is booked through Sept. 4, according to Nick Patel front desk clerk.

Brittny Guidry, a front desk clerk at the Gonzales Best Western, said that hotel is booked through Sept. 17.

The Gonzales Holiday Inn sold out Tuesday morning and is now booked through Sept. 6, a front desk clerk said Thursday.

State Fire Marshall Butch Browning, who was fire chief of Gonzales during hurricanes Katrina and Rita, was in St. Bernard Parish Thursday morning helping organize the governor’s advance directive for preparation of Gustav.

“The governor has given us a very aggressive order to see that we are prepared,” Browning said. “It looks at this time like the coastal area will be affected and we are just putting the plan in motion.”

Part of the plan is to help local coastal fire departments prepare themselves so they can be ready to assist immediately those in need when and if they are called upon in a Gustav related disaster, Browning said. About 50 officers from the fire marshal’s office are also being sent out to coastal areas to help coordinate fire fighting resources with OEP disaster operations.

In Ascension Parish, flooding is always a concern in stormy weather, and sandbags are now available for residents to pick up.

Sandbags were available Thursday at the following locations on the east bank:

• Ascension Civic Center, 9608 Airline Hwy., Sorrento.

• Fire District 1, 13192 Airline Hwy., Gonzales.

• 5th Ward Fire Department, 39110 Hwy. 22, Darrow.

• Galvez/Lake Fire Department, 16288 Joe Sevario Road, Galvez.

• Galvez/Lake Fire Department, 16573 Hwy. 931, Galvez.

• Lake Martin, Corner of Hwy. 431 and Lake Martin Road.

• Prairieville Fire Department, 372237 Goodwood St., Prairieville.

• St. Amant Fire Department, 44465 Stringer Bridge Road, St. Amant.

Westbank locations include:

• Abend Community Park and Playground, 3110 Bethel Ln., Donaldsonville.

• Bunn Hood Subdivision, Located off Hwy. 1 South, Donaldsonville.

• Donaldsonville Department of Public Works Office, 725 Church St., Donaldsonville.   

• Lemann Center, Corner of Thibaut Drive and Clay Street,

Donaldsonville.

• Lemanville Community Park, 3131 Hwy 18 East, Donaldsonville.

• Ascension Parish Health Unit, 901 Catalpa St., Donaldsonville.

• Modeste Community Park, 35444 Butler Rd., Modeste.

• Palo Alto Fire Station 120, 1428 Hwy. 1 South, Donaldsonville.

Ascension Parish Public Information Officer Ami Johnson encouraged residents to keep up with Gustov information and updates at the parish website www.ascensionparish.net.

Entergy Customer Service Manager David Herring said Entergy crews and contractors are preparing for staging near the predicted landfall area and will go to work repairing electrical damage as soon as the storm safely passes.

“We’re telling them to bring a least a week’s worth of clothes with them,” he said.

Herring asked that customers remember to stay away from downed power lines and call 1-800-9outage toll free to report damage.