PLAQUEMINES, La. (WVUE) - The east bank of Plaquemines Parish were under a mandatory evacuation order throughout Tropical Storm Barry but were allowed to come back Saturday night (July 13), after the order was lifted at 8 p.m. However, with breached and overtopped levees, the parish will still be dealing with impacts from the storm.
With the evacuation lifted, southbound lanes of Highway 23 remained closed where one levee overtopped and spilled water onto the roadway. Deputies set up a checkpoint Saturday night, stopping drivers trying to make it through. While the water had gone down, Sheriff Jerry Turlich said the main concern is motorists will not be able to see where the road starts and ends in the dark.
Parish President Kirk Lepine said throughout the storm, the parish played it safe to try and best protect people and property.
“We erred on the side of caution. The first prediction was the river levee at 3. 5 foot surge, so our concern was the river levees, so I really had to make a decision that was for the safety of all our resident," Lepine said.
Parish leaders said they reacted as best they could, given the storm’s unpredictability, but levee breaches and overtopping remained the biggest concern. There were a number of levee breaches to tend to, including one that was described as “gushing water” near the Jefferson Canal.
“We had a few problems,” Turlich said. “Jefferosn Lake Canal, Point Celeste, Myrtle Grove, St. Jude had some seepage, some overtopping. So, as they came we’ve been dealing with them, notifying the contractor, all of them reported to the EOC and as we got information and dealing with it.”
As of Saturday night, about 80 people were in shelters set up for evacuees. Though conditions seemed to be improving, officials said they are making arrangements to bus people back Sunday morning.
“We want to make sure we’re doing all our good diligence to make it safe for all residents,” Lepine said. “I know people see it’s not a strong storm and want to go home, but before we send them home, we want to make sure its absolutely safe to do so.”
When people do make it home, Lepine warned they’ll likely find water damage, especially in their lower levels. He said once conditions improve during the day tomorrow, crews will go out in air boats to assess damage more completely.
Lepine wanted to make clear that the levees that breached were not Mississippi River levees, but marsh levees.