NEWS

Curfew in Ascension beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday

Aaron Looney

Sheriff Jeff Wiley announced Sunday that Ascension Parish will be under curfew beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday night and lasting through Tuesday.

The announcement came during a briefing Sunday afternoon at the Parish Courthouse East in Gonzales.

"We're eliminating all unnecessary traffic on the roads in Ascension Parish for this event," Wiley said.

The curfew includes barrooms throughout the parish, the sheriff added.

Parish President Tommy Martinez said that officials fear that if the storm stays on its current path or strays more to the east, tidal surge from Lake Pontchartrain to Lake Maurepas and into the Amite River. The event could cause major flooding on the parish's east bank, Martinez said.

"If that happens, we're looking at a flood like you've never seen in Ascension Parish before, not through Betsy or any other hurricanes," Martinez said.

Rick Webre, director of the parish's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said that forecasts show the storm making landfall in the Barataria area by 8 a.m. Monday morning, with Ascension and surrounding areas set to begin experiencing tropical storm-force winds as early as midnight Sunday.

Webre also said that two shelters have opened in the parish as of 2 p.m. Sunday. They are located at Dutchtown High School on Hwy. 73 in Geismar and at the Dream Center East on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Donaldsonville.

Webre added that any parish employees that are not working through the storm should call 1-866-501-8017 to find out when they will be required to return to work.

Bill Roux, general manager for the East Ascension Gravity Drainage District, said that the pumps at the Marvin Braud Pumping Station in McElroy Swamp have begun drawing water in anticipation of heavy rains from Gustav. He added that water levels in Spanish Lake had been lowered so the basin could serve as a water retention area.

Roux also gave a list of areas in the parish designated as flood hazards. They include Port Vincent, Lake, Lake Martin, the Harry Savoy Road area, the lower Henderson Bayou area, the Gold Place Road area, Sorrento, the Bayou Manchac area and the Amite River Road area.

Areas that may see limited access in the case of heavy rains or flooding include Summerfield, Muddy Creek Road and Little Prairie Road, Roux said.

Areas that could see what Roux described as "catastrophic" flooding include all areas within the Marvin Braud Pumping Station system such as the Stringer Bridge Road area, Hwy. 936, Hwy. 937, the Acy area, St. Amant and Gonzales.

Superintendent of Schools Donald Songy said that all parish public schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. He added that assessments will be made following the storm's impact to see if any schools would be closed past that point.

River Parishes Community College will also be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, according to officials there.

Martinez also reiterated a warning to parish residents to "take this storm serously" and make all necessary preparations in advance of landfall.