Storm brings raised river, street flooding
By: JEAN L. KAESS
Lingering Tropical Storm Lee dumped more than 10 inches of rain on the area between Friday and 8 a.m. today and caused a higher than expected storm surge across the parish.
The Atchafalaya River crested at over 7 feet, according to St. Mary Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Duval Arthur Jr. As of Thursday, the National Weather Service recorded the river stage at approximately 2 feet. Their crest was recorded as 6.08 feet at around 1 p.m. Sunday.
While the high water in Morgan City caused no reported problems and triggered no floodwall gate closures, the extreme rainfall caused street flooding, scattered power outages, uprooted trees and a sinkhole on Justa Street. The storm also put a damper on attendance and caused a few glitches in the schedule of the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.
The official rainfall total from the Berwick locks was 10.58 inches, while the Bayou Boeuf locks reported 8.27 inches, both from the time frame between Thursday and this morning. Arthur reported 11 inches of rain between Thursday afternoon and Saturday night from a rain gauge in the Sixth Street area of Morgan City.
Cleco spokeswoman Robyn Cooper said the parish experienced scattered outages over the holiday weekend with the largest being about 1,600 customers on Saturday. As of this morning, all residents had power, she said.
In Morgan City, served by its own power system, Mayor Tim Matte said city crews were kept busy from around 3 a.m. Sunday onward as scattered power outages dotted the city. Most were caused by tree limbs falling on lines. One, at Duke and Seventh streets, was caused when a pecan tree fell, taking the electrical service components completely off a home, the mayor said.
Meanwhile, the Justa Street sinkhole was caused by a washout at a joint in the drainage pipe that runs under the levee next to the street Friday night.
A temporary repair was made to the pipe and the area was shored up Saturday morning. The washout caused the dirt of the levee to wash into the system, thus creating the sink hole. The pipe, however, continued draining the half of Lakeside Subdivision that it was responsible for, Matte said, even though extensive street flooding in the area occurred. Permanent repairs were postponed until the rain subsides this week as the affected pipe was required to remain in service for the duration of the rain event.
Water and sewer line breaks also were reported around the city, the result of saturated ground placing extra pressure on the lines. Matte said a large break was noted at Ninth Street near Shoney’s restaurant.
Meanwhile, the festival continued mostly as scheduled, with participants dodging periodic rain showers and heavy winds.
“The festival made the best of the circumstances they were dealt,” Matte noted. Morgan City police reported no major issues from the weekend, the mayor said.
Berwick Mayor Louis Ratcliff said his town experienced slight street flooding and a couple of downed trees. One, in Country Club Estates, fell across a street and damaged a fence. It was quickly removed, he said.
“We were very fortunate,” he said.
In Patterson, Mayor Rodney Grogan said the town “was blessed” as there was no flooding reported and only a few tree limbs downed. He credited the lack of flooding problems to the proactive residents south of the railroad tracks who sandbagged their homes Friday morning.
Arthur said he was unaware of any homes being flooded within St. Mary Parish.
A couple of recreational vehicles received water at Burns Point and Cypremort Point, as those areas received 5.5 feet of storm surge.
“We were very lucky. It could have been a lot worse because of the unpredictable nature of the storm,” he said. As an example, he cited the NWS prediction of 1 to 3 feet of surge that was surpassed across the parish.
Bayou Teche was higher than normal, but the increase is attributed to rain, he added.
Elsewhere, a barge capsized on Bayou Schaffer around noon Sunday, creating a small diesel spill but no injuries. It was being moved by a Moncla Marine tug out of Lafayette when the accident occurred. It was unknown whether the incident was storm-related, Arthur said.
Water driven by mostly storm surge creeped into the Franklin Canal this weekend and covered Willow Street. It lasted several hours before receding. There were also reports of street flooding along Eastwood Drive in Franklin from Bayou Teche and in other parts of western St. Mary Parish.
As of the 10 a.m. update, Lee has become extratropical over southern Louisiana as it has merged with a frontal zone with cool and dry air infiltrating the circulation center from the north and west. The extratropical low center is expected to turn towards the northeast, bringing the center into Alabama by Monday night.
A wind advisory is in effect until 7 p.m. with north winds of 15 to 25 mph expected and gusts between 30 and 35 mph.