Local area hunkers down as Karen takes aim at coast

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2013

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Just as the residents of Southeast Louisiana began to feel a sense of relief after a quiet Hurricane Season, a scare has come their way in the form of Tropical Storm Karen.
The disturbance developed quickly after lingering for many days off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and already had 60 mph winds by Thursday morning.
Since then, all eyes have been as Karen as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico. Wind shear has kept the storm rather disorganized and pushed most of the rain activity off to the east, but local residents should brace for tropical storm-like conditions as the storm approaches and passes over Plaquemines Parish this evening.
Although its current path takes direct aim at the Louisiana coast, the storm is predicted to make an eastward turn toward the Alabama coast and make a second landfall there Sunday.  As such, warnings and watches are in effect from Morgan City to the Florida panhandle, with the metro New Orleans area including Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas under a tropical storm watch.
Local residents, especially those in St. John the Baptist Parish, where Hurricane Isaac caused so much unexpected damage last year, have been keeping a particularly close eye on the storm as it slowed down and shifted slightly to the west Friday.
Because of this, St. John Parish President declared a state of emergency for the parish Friday morning.
A release accompanying the declaration read in part: “Residents should be prepared to tolerate unfavorable conditions such as power outages, high water, and possible downed trees and tree limbs following the storm. All loose debris and trash should be removed to assist in preventing blockage in parish drainage systems.   Public Works crews will continue to collect tree limbs this morning until wind levels exceed a level that is safe. Residents can drop off vegetative debris at the incinerator located at the end of Airport Road in Reserve.”
Additionally, several sandbag stations were set up Friday. These included:
• Belle Terre Land (front of Foxwood Subdivision) 669 Belle Terre Blvd., LaPlace;
• St. John Community Center at 2900 U.S. Highway 51, LaPlace;
• Captain Bourgeois (pre-filled sandbags for elderly and disabled only);
• Fire Station No. 94 at 1200 Louisiana Highway 643, Pleasure Bend;
• Fire Station No. 62 located at 378 Railroad Ave., Reserve;
• Airport Road, Reserve;
• Fire Station No. 71 at 418 Historic West St., Garyville; and
• Old Second Ward High School at 3671 Louisiana Highway 18, Edgard.
“We are fully prepared for a potential heavy rain event,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “All pump stations are operational and crews are on stand-by.”
The St. John Parish Emergency Operations Center will continue to monitor the track of Tropical Storm Karen and will remain in contact with the National Weather Center and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness. Additional information will be release to residents as it becomes available.  
The parish recommends residents stay up-to-date on the latest developments by visiting its social media sites, website or by watching the parish’s public access channel.
Neighboring St. Charles Parish is also keeping a close eye on the storm.
Because of the potential for higher than normal tides in the LaPlace / Montz area, sand and bags will be available at Montz Park, 100 Calcagno St. in Montz. Please bring a shovel.
Residents should call 1-800-ENTERGY to report outages.
All parish pump stations and generators are operable and fueled, and canals have been pumped down.
Any questions may be directed to the St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center at 985-783-5050 24 hours a day.
Also, several events planned for the weekend have been canceled or rescheduled. These include:
• Marathon Day at Ezekiel Jackson Park (to be rescheduled);
• Support Our Troops Fundraiser Basketball Game (rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26);
• St. John Parish Andouille Pageant – (rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12); and
• St. John Parish Andouille Children’s Pageant – (rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 13).
All rescheduled events will take place at their originally scheduled times.
At a statewide level, Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency and has authorized the mobilization of more than 500 National Guard troops, who had previously been furloughed because of the government shutdown, to respond to the storm.
Check back with lobservateur.com for updates throughout the weekend.