Wounded west bank continues healing process

Allison B. Hudson and Aaron Looney

DONALDSONVILLE – With damage still lingering from Hurricane Gustav and parts of the area still without power or just being reenergized Friday, strong winds from Hurricane Ike knocked out power to much of the parish’s west bank Friday morning, according to Entergy officials and Parish President Tommy Martinez.

Martinez said Friday that the tropical storm-force winds had caused what little of the Donaldsonville area that had regained power to lose it again.

“Their grid got knocked out,”?Martinez said of Entergy’s power distribution system for Donaldsonville and areas south into Assumption Parish.

Martinez said Friday he planned to transport generators located at the Ascension Civic Center in Sorrento to the parish’s west bank and install them in areas most in need and to necessary entities including gas stations, stores and medical facilities.

As of Monday, many parts  of the city and nearby areas had power restored.

Last week, Mayor Leroy Sullivan asked city residents to be patient as power and services are restored.

“I need the residents of Donaldsonville to understand that we are working as hard as we can to get necessary supplies, but we all have to be patient during these times,” Sullivan said. “The process of assistance goes from the mayor, then to the parish level, and on to the state, and we are all working as expediently as possible, I just ask the residents to be patient.”

Ascension Parish Sheriff’s officials said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been coming to distribute items at the Lemann Center daily.

The distribution center closed Friday in advance of Hurricane Ike’s strong winds. The center reopened Saturday, but was expected to shutter soon after as businesses began to regain power in the area, parish Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Rick Webre said during a Parish Council meeting Thursday in Gonzales.

Monday, the Lemann Center parking lot was lined with stacks of empty pallets and forklifts.

The Dream Center has also distributed hot meals and military-ready to eat meals in the community.

Sullivan encouraged residents to help neighbors in clean-up efforts and to work together and check on elderly neighbors frequently.

“The faster we can clear trees and debris, the quicker Entergy can restore power,” he said.

During a City Council meeting held Friday, the council delayed action on hiring a firm to begin debris removal.

Parish President Tommy Martinez and Parish CAO Cedric Grant, in attendance Friday, urged the city to join in a cooperative endeavor agreement to collect vegetative storm debris. The City of Gonzales and the Town of Sorrento are already taking part in the agreement.

Also during the meeting Friday, Entergy representative William McDonald said that he expected the area to have power restored as of Sunday.

McDonald also said that 86 percent of the area had been restored as of Friday. However, Sullivan and Martinez disagreed with the assessment.

Martinez also said that the west bank is not being overlooked as it continues to recover from the two storms.

The city is also looking for volunteers to assist in the process of rebuilding. Volunteers can report either to the mayor’s office at the Donaldsonville Municipal Building on Railroad Avenue or directly a the Lemann Center on Clay Street.