Ascension leaders unite in preparation for Tropical Storm Cristobal

Michael Tortorich
Lt. Col. Donald Capello of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office gives an update on storm preparations last Thursday afternoon.
Photo by Michael Tortorich

Ascension Parish officials joined together as Tropical Storm Cristobal moved into the Gulf Coast over the weekend.

Leaders of various parish entities huddled via a unified command conference daily to coordinate preparations.

Parish Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Rachael Wilkinson said the Emergency Operations Center fully activated Saturday morning. Any resident in need of assistance can call the Citizen Service Center at (225) 450-1200.

Parish President Clint Cointment declared a state of emergency ahead of the weekend storm. During the week, crews were working around the parish to clear blocked drainage.

Several sandbag distribution sites were set up throughout the parish. Officials said more than 40,000 sandbags were pre-filled and ready for distribution ahead of the event.

The coronavirus testing site at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales closed for six days after Sunday due to weather.

According to Wilkinson, 1,850 individuals were tested at the previous site, which had been located at Donaldsonville Primary School. A total of 549 have been tested since the site moved to Gonzales.

OEP Assistant Director Dustin Montelius said the agency closely monitored the storm threat. Members of the OEP team worked through the weekend, relying on information from the National Weather Service.

Ascension Parish Council member Chase Melancon was among the officials out Sunday checking water levels. 

He shared a Facebook post crediting parish workers for doing a job “second to none” in cleaning bridges and drainage. 

Lt. Col. Donald Capello spoke last Thursday in Donaldsonville about the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office preparations ahead of the storm.

During Mayor Leroy Sullivan’s bi-weekly update, Capello warned of the dangers of flooding.

“If you know locations flood, stay away from those locations. Once we decide it’s impassable, we put barricades up. Please don’t go around those barricades,” Capello said.

The mayors of the three parish municipalities - Donaldsonville, Gonzales, and Sorrento - all participated in the daily conference calls. Representatives of the area fire districts also coordinated with local leaders ahead of the storm.

According to the National Weather Service, Cristobal made landfall at 5 p.m. Sunday along the coast, between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Grand Isle. Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 50 miles per hour.

Also of note:

  • The parish Department of Public Works announced that the boat launches at PJ’s Landing in Sorrento and Laurel Ridge in St. Amant have been closed.
  • Three meetings scheduled for Monday were affected by the storm. Strategic Planning Committee rescheduled to June 11 at 5:30 p.m. East Ascension Drainage Board rescheduled to June 11 at 6 p.m. Transportation Committee's meeting has been cancelled.