Ascension continues to bounce back from Gustav

Aaron E. Looney and Wade McIntyre
Kevin Huff returns a lawnmower Sunday to a roofless garage at his home in Darrow, which was heavily damaged during Hurricane Gustav. Parts of the parish’s east bank began receiving electricity late last week, while some harder-hit areas were still without power.

While Ascension Parish residents began the rebuilding process late last week after Hurricane Gustav tore through the parish with damaging winds and rain, parish government officials made numerous announcements regarding closures and bans in the storm’s wake.

As of Monday, relief supplies were still being distributed to Ascension Parish residents at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales and at the Lemann Memorial Center in Donaldsonville.

These facilities will be the relief supplies destination point for residents. They will be open at 9 a.m. each day and remain open until supplies are exhausted. All emergency supplies will be distributed on a first-come basis. 

Distribution of all emergency supplies will be handled in a drive-thru fashion, according to officials residents are asked to present proper Ascension Parish identification to receive goods.

The facility will remain open while goods are available. 

Friday, Parish President Tommy Martinez signed an executive order  banning the burning of storm debris any closer than 500 feet from an occupied dwelling.

Martinez said he signed the order because neighboring windows are open due to power outages and the invasion of smoke may possibly cause medical complications, such as asthma.

Martinez requested residents hold off burning until power is restored to their area or to bring any tree debris to the Ascension Civic Center in Airline Highway in Sorrento for disposal.

Sheriff Jeff Wiley said deputies will “vigorously enforce” the order.

Wiley also said that while the previous parish curfew had been lifted, a curfew still remains in Donaldsonville from 10 p.m. till 6 a.m. each night until further notice.

Martinez also declared a  State of Emergency Sept. 4 due to the high water levels on the Amite River and the Diversion Canal. 

“Due to the potential to cause extensive damage in Ascension Parish and to minimize the threat to life and property of the citizens of the Parish... all recreational boat traffic on the Amite River and Diversion Canal is halted and these waterways are closed until further notice,” the order reads. 

Wildlife and Fisheries Department is currently patrolling the waterways.

In terms of power outage in the parish, DEMCO officials reported Monday that 78 percent of its customers have power and 90 percent are expected to by the end of the day Monday.

Entergy officials projected that 50 percent of the east bank has power restored as of Monday. Crews are presently working in Sorrento on Brittany Street, Belleview Subdivision, Hwy 22 at Airline Highway, Hwy. 42 at Hwy. 44 and heading towards Port Vincent, Muddy Creek, Brown Road, Trailerland Subdivision, Bluff Road, Ridge Road, C. Braud Road, Hwy. 74 to Hunt Prison, (inside the City of Gonzales) Ascension Street and Cornerview Street towards Airline.

Meanwhile, in  Donaldsonville, Entergy reports indicate power is being restored to businesses near the Sunshine Bridge, Wal-Mart, Chef John Folse’s manufacturing plant and the city pumping station along Hwy. 70.

Crews are working on a  feed today to Prevost Memorial Hospital, but some power should be restored tonight.

Donaldsonville has crew members out at this time and power is up at the sub-station.  Officials said restoration to resident’s homes is still dependent on utility pole repairs. 

Rising backwater in the wake of the storm has also prompted parish officials to take all requests for sandbags from parish residents, Parish Martinez said Friday afternoon.

Martinez said residents in need of assistance can call the Ascension Parish Department of Public Works office at 621-5730.

Martinez also asked area residents to use caution when connecting and using generators, as several recent fires in the Gonzales area have been attributed to generator problems.

In medical news, Promise Hospital of Ascension in Gonzales and Prevost Memorial Hospital in Donaldsonville were still without power Friday afternoon, but Martinez said he hoped Promise Hospital would have its power restored Friday.

He cautioned residents that the process of returning energy to the parish will continue “for a few more weeks.”

Getting services to stores, gas stations and other businesses will help relieve some of the stress from the residents due to the outages, Martinez said.

“Seeing the stop lights coming up, supplies getting out and stores opening, we hope, is a boost to the public’s confidence,” he said.

Power outages are also causing problems with sewer lift stations in the parish. Most of the sewage systems in the parish are privately owned and  these are being pumped down as fast as possible. These systems are maintained and are permitted and regulated by the State Department of Health and Hospitals.

Residents are urged to reduce water consumption and waste until electricity is restored to their subdivisions.

Martinez also said he was meeting with FEMA officials regarding “logistics for delivery of supplies.”

Martinez also said that the American Red Cross shelter located at Dutchtown High School closed last weekend, as school was scheduled to resume at the campus Tuesday.

In other news, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a Temporary Blue Roofing Program in Ascension Parish. Residents who are property owners and received roof damage during Hurricane Gustav, may sign up with the program and have a temporary blue roof installed by hired contractors.

To register, visit the Ascension Parish Fire District 1 station, located at 13192 Airline Hwy., Gonzales. Registration will be held seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. A second location will be announced later for west bank residents.

Residents will need to provide identification, a phone number and physical address.

Corps of Engineers officials said once residents sign up and supply information including identification, phone number and physical address, contractors will install the temporary blue roofing on at that location.

For more updates on hurricane recovery efforts, visit www.weeklycitizen.com or www.ascensionparish.net.