ST. BERNARD PARISH, LA (WVUE) - We are six weeks out from the official start to hurricane season and officials start early checks to keep us safe. It's become a familiar sight along Highway 46 in St. Bernard parish. Executive director of the Lake Borgne Levee District Nicholas Cali said, "These gates are 35 feet wide, 18 feet tall and weigh about 100 tons a piece." The highway takes boaters and fisherman to the water. Cali said, "These gates provide that access while still allowing us to close up the system." The wall in Verret keeps the water away during a storm.
According to Cali, "We just do this in April to make sure everything is functioning correctly in advance of hurricane season." The Lake Borgne Levee District enlists help from several agencies for this preseason kick-off. Cali said, "It's a large gate, it takes a lot of people and it's a pretty involved process."
The mechanics of the closure are deceptively simple. A wench, some steel cable, grease and a little soap and water all help close the gap that protects thousands of homes and businesses. "We've only gotten better with the system. We understand it, maintaining it, so I don't have any problem telling you it's safe," said Cali.
This gate is the last access point that will close in case there is a storm, but don't worry if you are still on the other side there is an emergency bypass road that will take you over the levee. At a convenience store up the road Susan Freire has mixed emotions about the giant barrier. She said, "I feel like in all honesty the more man puts his hands in things the worse he makes it." The Ysclosky native mourns the loss of her former home. Freire said, "It's sinking no matter what we do it's sinking. I don't know if the levees are going to help or hurt."
Freire and her husband now live in Chalmette. She is glad that some areas benefit from the protection. "The main thing is, I guess, if it helps them to feel more secure go for it." Cali said, "These things will stand up to the 100 year flood elevation. We tested them for hurricane Isaac and they performed well." Even with levee protection evacuations may still be necessary. Freire said, "If we get another major storm coming I'm not staying in Chalmette either. I'll go north. Go somewhere I don't know, but not far from home. I'm coming back. No matter what we will always come back." The Hurricane Risk Reduction System will help insure home is there.