GONZALES — After a tense day Friday with water levels refusing to recede at a pumping station that drains large swaths of Ascension Parish, Saturday morning brought better news.
“The water is receding,” said Tommy Martinez, parish president. “Yesterday was tough.”
The Marvin J. Braud Pumping Station in southeast Ascension Parish was running at full capacity, but storm surge from Hurricane Isaac was bringing water ever higher at the station. In addition, water had started flowing around the structure where the parish is building additional pumping capacity.
The possibility of a “worst case scenario” of additional flooding had prompted parish officials to call for a voluntary evacuation for parts of Ascension Parish, including the areas of Sorrento and parts of St. Amant and Acy.
On Friday, the Lake Maurepas side of the pumping station had an elevation of 6.4 feet while the inside was at 3.1 feet, Martinez said.
At one section with a boat gate, the water came within four inches of the top, which would have flowed water back into the area protected by the pumping station, he said.
With the five 1,000-cubic-feet-per-second pumps operating continuously, there was a fear that if water continued to rise and a pump or multiple pumps gave out, that would mean more flooding for the parish.
“Fortunately, we kept all of the pumps running,” Martinez said.
Saturday morning, the water on the Lake Maurepas side of the structure was down to 5.7 feet, indicating the storm surge was starting to recede.
It could take some time, however, before the water completely clears out.
Bill Roux, East Ascension drainage director, said that because southeasterly winds brought the storm surge into the parish, it’s going to take a north wind to help drive that water out.
He said that in early 2000, the parish never had to run all five pumps at one time, but as more development comes into the parish, running all pumps is something that has to be done more often. The additional roofs, roads and concrete that come with more development means water runs into the bayous and waterways faster than it used to, Roux said.
Another flooding concern that seems to have passed is rising water levels on the Amite River.
The National Weather Service Advance Hydrologic Prediction Service showed Saturday evening that the highest the river would get is 9 feet at Port Vincent sometime Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
That 9-foot level is expected to continue through Sunday until water levels begin to fall, according to the weather service.
“We don’t have any major issues there (in Port Vincent and Manchac) until it hits 10 feet,” Roux said.
The remaining concern is a low-lying area south of Sorrento where water is still rising, he said.
Roux said water drains from other areas into the low-lying basin, but some of the water being pumped from the Marvin J. Braud pumping station also makes it to that area. That impact from the pumping station, however, was fairly small, he said.
In one area south of Sorrento, four houses on Raymond Tullier Road were surrounded by water, and one of those houses, belonging to David, 69, and Shirley Tullier, 65, was surrounded by people.
Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, fellow church members from the Church in St. Amant were placing sandbags around the home, pumping out the water, serving sandwiches to the volunteers and generally giving support to the effort to save the house.
Todd Tullier, 42, said his father is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and just couldn’t do the work when the water started coming up. Tullier said his parents don’t have flood insurance because they’ve never seen flooding like this before.
Todd Tullier said he called members of his church Saturday morning, and within an hour and a half there were sandbags around the house.
“What these guys showed up here to do is what he (his dad) showed up to do for other people,” Todd Tullier said. “His deal is he didn’t care if he had chemotherapy, if these men were out there doing this for him, he wanted to thank every one of them personally. And he did.”
Todd Tullier said he’s been told they could expect five more inches of water Saturday night and that more sandbags were on the way.
He said parish officials have been out to see the area and have been very helpful in the situation.
“God has blessed us up to this point. He’ll bless us beyond this point,” Tullier said.