HEAD OF ISLAND — Francis Petho and her family filled sandbags Tuesday because they didn’t know what Wednesday would bring.
Perspiring in the sun before clouds blew in, Petho, 73, didn’t stop shoveling as she expressed her concerns about the rain and water that Hurricane Isaac would push ahead of it.
“I don’t like the wind, but I’m more worried about the water,” she said, echoing the concerns of other residents of southern Livingston Parish, who prepared for Isaac’s predicted storm surge and heavy rain.
Sandbags have kept her house from flooding in the past, Petho said.
Her son, daughter, granddaughter, a family friend and a stranger helped Petho fill sandbags Tuesday to keep that water out of her home.
“You’ve got to help out,” said Mike Poche, who met and helped the Petho family as he was filling sandbags to protect his own house, which has flooded during several hurricanes.
Mark Harrell, director of the Livingston Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, said parish residents are using more sand for this storm than they ever have before because of the concerns about storm surge and heavy rain.
At some drop points, the sand is gone almost as soon as it is dumped, as people prepare for the storm surge expected to begin around midnight, he said.
Most of the sand is going to the southern part of the parish, but sand has been sent to every fire district in the parish, said Sam Digirolamo, the parish’s director of public works.
There has been a “frenzy” of people filling sandbags, said Lori Steele, spokeswoman for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“They’re loading them up,” Councilman Ronnie Sharp said of sandbags in his district in the southeastern part of the parish.
Parish President Layton Ricks said that as of 5 p.m., 1,581 tons of sand had been hauled and 51,600 bags had been sent out to fire stations and other drop points.
He said his biggest concern for the parish from this storm is flooding.
Homes will flood, but the question is how many, he said.
Low-lying areas around Lake Maurepas, Blood River and Blind River appear to be the most vulnerable, Ricks said.
“We’re expecting 5 to 6 feet of storm surge,” along the lake and possibly as much as 12 inches of rain, he said.
Winds in the parish probably will reach 75 to 80 mph, he said.
More than 450 tarps have been made available to fire chiefs for distribution to people who wind up with roof damage, Ricks said.
A parish-wide curfew has been set from dusk to dawn for people not involved in essential activities, the he said.
No mandatory evacuation had been called for as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, but Ricks said shelters are available for people who do need to leave their homes.
Shelters at Doyle High School and Live Oak Middle School were open Tuesday afternoon and officials were opening a third shelter at Albany High School on Tuesday evening.
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