Plaquemines Parish calls for voluntary evacuations for areas outside of levee protection system

Updated: Jun. 6, 2020 at 9:15 PM CDT
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PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. (WVUE) - Parish President Kirk Lepine has issued a voluntary evacuation for the communities of Happy Jack, Grand Bayou, Myrtle Grove, Lake Hermitage, Harlem, and Monsecour due to Tropical Storm Cristobal. The order goes into effect at noon Saturday, June 6.

Residents are advised to bring vehicles, boats and campers to higher ground as the storm is expected to bring high tides and heavy rainfall to the area.

“We need to ensure residents are protected as this storm draws near, so we are taking all the necessary precautions to be completely prepared,” says President Lepine. “We have sandbags arranged and all parish pumping stations are operational. We have ordered this voluntary evacuation as an additional precautionary measure to urge residents to move to an area of safety before Cristobal makes landfall.”

Many already have. Dozens of campers, trailers, boats and mobile homes line the shoulder of Highway 46 in Verret, while a sheriff’s deputy patrols the stretch.

“You bring your boat out here, see all these people let their stuff out so it makes life a lot easier,” explained Belle Chasse resident Johnny Sarbeck.

Sarbeck says it’s one less thing to worry about as Tropical Storm Cristobal bears down on the gulf.

“We have a camp down the road there...and when the water comes up, we don’t want the boats to get damaged, so we try to get them out," Sarbeck said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I’m just worried about the water coming up there. The water is already come up underneath the camp.”

It may be the first storm of the season, but in St. Bernard Parish, President Guy McInnis says residents know what to do and they’re taking precautions.

“We worry about the storm surge for the storm, three to five feet is what is estimated. We think we’re okay. Everyone in the lower end of St. Bernard Parish is ready for that,” said McInnis.

McInnis says the few families outside of the levee protection system are voluntarily evacuating. Parish pumps are 100-percent operational and assets are positioned to meet residents’ needs for the next three days.

Flood Authority workers closed a number of flood gates, including Caernavron on Highway 39 at the St. Bernard-- Plaquemines parish line.

“Tropical Storm Cristobal looks to bring substantial rain, winds, and flooding to our region, particularly in the lower-lying regions of the Parish outside of the levee protection system. We ask all residents from Plaquemines Parish to get ready, secure items around your home, clean catch basins and vegetation debris and remain weather aware," said Lepine.

Lepine says parish workers have been preparing for the storm since Thursday. Saturday, he says crews inspected levees and repaired deficiencies on both the east and west banks.

“The way it’s coming in, we have some problems on our east bank,” Lepine started. “The water will maybe top some of our back levees.”

Though Lepine says the parish is prepared, he says he is hopeful the storm moves quickly. The main objective is keeping water off of Highway 23 to ensure commerce can continue.

“In the future, we will have bigger levees. Right now, we just hope and pray that some of that water just doesn’t come in and stay that the surge is not as high as they predict,” said Lepine.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning and storm surge warning, for Plaquemines Parish, as Cristobal makes its way across the Gulf of Mexico towards a late Sunday landfall on the Louisiana coastline. Tropical Storm Cristobal will cause Tropical storm force winds by late Saturday night. It is reported that heavy rainfall will occur in advance of and during the storm’s passage, and is likely to cause significant flooding.

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