LAFAYETTE — Curfews in most of Acadiana, including Lafayette Parish, were expected to be lifted early Thursday after Hurricane Isaac hit as a downgraded tropical storm Wednesday and spared the region from major destruction, emergency preparedness officials said.
“We’re just so thankful that we survived it the way we did because it could have been much, much worse,” Duval Arthur Jr., director of St. Mary Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, said.
“If that storm had come in sooner and in a different direction, we could have been on the water side of that storm,” Arthur said. “I feel so sorry for those people in Plaquemines (Parish) and Jefferson Parish who have all that water.”
The region experienced fallen trees, heavy rainfall, ranging from three to 12 inches, and wind gusts, ranging from 20 mph to 70 mph, in some areas Wednesday but no major damage. Utilities, including Entergy, SLEMCO and CLECO, reported that a combined total of more than 12,000 customers lacked power at one point Wednesday. Schools in the eight-parish region will remain closed Thursday.
The eye of the storm passed within 20 miles of Morgan City, and the path downed power lines leaving about a third of the parish without power, Arthur said.
Wind gusts in Franklin ranged between 40 to 45 mph while in Morgan City, gusts were more powerful at 50 to 60 mph as of Wednesday evening, Arthur said.
“It’s still a lot of wind out there. The storm has not gone away. It’s just passing us by,” he said. “For a little small Category 1 storm, it dealt the whole state a big blow.”
“The winds on the western end of the parish are heavier tonight than what was in Morgan City most of the day,” Arthur said after an 8 p.m. drive through the parish. “They’re getting a little bit stronger gust in the Franklin area as the storm makes its way up the Atchafalaya.”
The heavy winds were not accompanied by the heavy rainfall that was expected, Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte said.
“That’s certainly been a blessing for us because it’s really kept us in good shape as far as the pumps are concerned,” Matte said.
Arthur said through Wednesday night and into Thursday, about 10 inches of rainfall is forecast and flooding is not a concern because the winds drew water out of the bayous.
“We’re very fortunate,” he said “If it continues to rain or if we get a surge, it will bring the water back to where it was.”
Arthur said there have been reports of a couple of roofs blown off in Berwick and Morgan City, but no major damage was reported.
In Lafayette Parish, the expected rainfall forecast for Lafayette on Wednesday evening was decreased from more than 10 inches to three to 10 inches, depending on the continual path of the storm’s rain bands, according to information from Lafayette Consolidated Government.
The parish was ready for a prolonged rainfall, said Dee Stanley, chief administrative officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government.
“We’re prepared to take a significant amount of rainfall so long as it doesn’t come down in a bucket, or all at one time,” Stanley said.
A prevailing north wind helped with drainage as the wind pushed the Vermilion River to “very low levels,” Stanley said. That is expected to change as the storm approaches, he added.
In Iberia Parish, coastal flooding was a concern as tides expected to top 2 to 4 feet above normal after midnight, Holly Leleux-Thurbon, spokeswoman for Iberia Parish Government, said.
“We’re going to expect more wind and rain over the nighttime,” she said. “Our surge potential increases after midnight when the tides come in, so we’ll be watching the coast closely.”
No major incidents were reported in the parish, she said.
“Nearly 5,000 people are without power here, but it’s really a lot better than it could have been,” she said.
Shrimpers in Delcambre waited for an expected 5-foot storm surge to free their boats, which had been lodged in mud after the storm’s strong winds whipped the canal waters clear of the canal bank’s edge.
“It happened in the early morning hours about 2:30 a.m. You could feel it,” said Cherie Broussard, who slept on her boat, “Miss Amy,” Tuesday night.
It’s not rare for the boats to get marooned by strong winds pushing the water away from the canal bank, but owners must take care to control the boat’s release when the water returns to prevent damage, said Brian Billiot, another shrimper.
Two of Billiot’s boats were stuck along the bank. Broussard and Billiot said boats could be damaged by debris stuck underneath the hull or a swift surge could send the boats into pilings.
“We’ll probably only get a 5- to 6-foot surge,” Billiot said. “It shouldn’t be bad here. Rita (in 2005) and Ike (in 2008) were the meanest ones.”
In nearby Erath, the only major inconvenience expected by residents like David Falgout was a power outage.
“We’ve got a little generator, ice, canned goods and water,” Falgout said. “We’ve been through this several times.”