Flooding came as a surprise in Bayou Vista
BAYOU VISTA, La. — The bad news for Bayou Vista residents is that a rain deluge such as reportedly occurred Sunday will inevitably lead to flooded streets and possibly houses, according to drainage district officials. The good news is that floods of five inches in an hour such as were reported are rare according to National Weather Service meteorologists.
“We had 5 inches of rain in one hour and over 6 inches of rain fell Sunday morning,” Alvin Lodrigue told about two dozen citizens who attended the Tuesday night board meeting of the Gravity Sub-drainage District No. 1 of Gravity Drainage District No. 2 that encompasses Bayou Vista. “The pumps began running at 6 a.m. and (all seven) were running at full capacity” by 6:30 a.m.
The Bayou Vista-Patterson area received about 10 inches of rain according to radar interpretations done by Jonathan Brazzell of the National Weather Service in Lake Charles. He said that the radar interpretation suggested rainfall greater than two inches in an hour around 5 a.m. and that the data indicated the five-inch figure is possible.
“It was really heavy and intense around sunrise,” Brazzell said.
Residents complained that they have seen flooding in Bayou Vista before but not to this extent and several stated they got water in their homes for the first time.
“I could not leave my home. This is ridiculous,” Cynthia Carter, a Bayou Vista resident, said.
There were several factors that led to water covering the streets and getting into the houses according to Glen Elliot, the board chairman.
“Five inches of rain in an hour will overwhelm any system of drainage,” Elliot said after the meeting.
Several streets in Bayou Vista were blocked to traffic by firefighters, but most were opened back up by noon Sunday.
Residents along David and Arlington roads expressed frustration with water in their homes and vehicles but appeared angrier at motorists who plowed through the water sending a wake of floodwater rolling off the street into their homes.
Rodney Fredrick of David Drive said, “Cars were speeding down the street throwing water into people’s houses and there is nothing you can do about it but holler.”
Some of the Bayou Vista residents attending the meeting suggested that the sheriff’s office let them deploy barricades and volunteered to store the barricades.
The sheriff would not be able to assist in getting barricades deployed or distributed, according to Traci Landry, spokeswoman for St. Mary Sheriff Mark Hebert. This would be a matter for the parish government to address, she said.
Eric Duplantis, parish attorney, said he is researching whether citizens can deploy barricades.
If drivers are throwing a wake with their vehicles and destroying property, residents can get the vehicle information and call the sheriff’s office, Landry said. But she cautioned residents against doing anything that could jeopardize their safety.
Lodrigue said the other significant issue contributing to property flooding is something that cannot be remedied by the drainage district, as it is a state matter under the direction of the Department of Transportation and Development.
“Getting the water from here across the highway (where the pumps are located) is the problem.” Lodrigue said. “There is nothing that can be done short of digging up the highway” to replace and lower the culverts that drain floodwaters from the community to the pumps. He also pointed out that the ditch that parallels the railroad track needs cleaning out but this too is a state matter.
“Who can we call?” someone asked? “The governor?”
Elliot said that the supervisor for the highway department in St. Mary Parish is Brian Ducote and his number is 337-828-0352. Ducote said that he is in the process of digging out drainage ditches and having them mowed.
Parish councilman Glen Hidalgo said he is gathering information on everyone who has had floodwaters enter their homes so that he can pursue solutions. He asked that anyone whose home was flooded call him at 985-395-3182.
Lodrigue said that some of the ditches have become a dumping ground for discarded items ranging from shopping baskets to bicycles, all of which have the ability to lead to a plugged up drainage.
“If you have a drain by your house, help us out and keep it clean,” Lodrigue said.
Elliot said that homeowners may not be aware of the damage that is done when they blow lawn clippings and dump trash into storm drains. He suggested that residents call the sheriff’s office if they observe people dumping things, including grease or crawfish heads, into the drains.
The commissioners discussed the four new pumps that will be installed at the new $2.6 million pumping station to replace four of the 50-year-old pumps in use and nearing the end of their life expectancy. The new station and pumps near the Cameron plant are expected to be operating by September with a platform to add a fifth pump if it becomes needed.
Lodrigue said when the pumps are all working at full capacity, six million gallons of water per hour is moved away from Bayou Vista on its way to the Intracoastal Canal. He estimated that the pumps moved out 50 million gallons of water from the Sunday morning deluge.
The District covers most of Bayou Vista with a boundary that runs between La. 182 and the railroad from Cameron Iron Works to the Berwick city limits.