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|Historic rainfall event blamed for flooding|
A Corps of Engineer official said this morning (Wednesday) that flooding in Concordia and throughout northeastern Louisiana from Hurricane Gustav last week was caused by one primary factor -- an historic rain event which exceeded all known records.
"Monstrous ditches" to drain the flood waters "would not have helped in this," said Robert Simrall, Chief of Water Control for the U.S. Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District.
Simrall, and other officials from the local, state and federal level, attended a meeting in Vidalia today called by the Concordia Parish Police Jury to discuss flooding and particularly Cocodrie Bayou, the small channel that drains the parish.
A number of flood control issues were discussed, but Simrall said the amount of rainfall -- in excess of 20 inches in 48 hours in some areas -- caused water to back up everywhere.
Jury President Melvin Ferrington said the excessive rainfall clearly shows that Concordia must have a parishwide drainage program and that the federal government will have to fund it.
"We just don't have the money," he said.
Simrall said that adjustments on weir levels in Cocodrie would have done little to ease the flooding situation, but noted that a stretch of the bayou is only about 70 feet wide, while it totals a width of about 300 feet in the Deer Park area.
He said pump stations could not have made a difference in this flood event either, because "pumps run when the river is too high to drain out" the water. "This was not a pump event."
In order to develop a parishwide drainage plan, Ferrington said federal monies are needed to pay for a feasibility study. But the deadline to seek that help was 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to Cindy Carter of U.S. Sen. David Vitter's office.
Because Cocodrie is designated as a Scenic Waterway by the state, snagging and dredging operations are forbidden. Ferrington said the construction of a diversion canal, the implementation of gates in the weirs and gravity flow structures to help drain northern Concordia were possible alternatives to ease flooding.
But he said all would require "a lot of money."
Meanwhile, Sheriff Randy Maxwell said the parish made it through the storm and its aftermath without any problems on the crime front.
"Things went really well under the circumstances and a lot of people pitched in and worked real hard," he said. "We had a lot of sandbag work going on and we are fortunate that no one was hurt during the storm."
He requested that area residents continue to refrain from recreational boating on the lakes through this weekend.
Supt. Loretta Blankenstein said the school system was "fortunate to have very little damage."
She gave the following statement:
"A tree fell at VLE. It missed the gym, but wiring had to be rerouted before power could be restored. There were a few trees down at other schools. We had small leaks in several buildings, and a large leak in the library at FUE. We have also had problems with some air conditioners and freezers.
"During the storm, principals and custodians went to the schools daily to monitor possible damage. This allowed a fast response from our maintenance crew in their efforts to restore schools to their pre-storm condition.
"A special thank you goes out to all of our employees for their assistance during this period. I greatly appreciate the information provided by our local newspapers and radio stations in an effort to keep all of our parents and employees informed of weather conditions and school closings. We are still awaiting a definite response from the state department concerning possible make-up days."
Library Director Amanda Taylor said leaks were discovered following the storm in the Clayton and Vidalia library branches.
She also noted that the library system's main server is down and that all orders are being handwritten.
"We ask the public to be patient," she said. "We are using laptops in Ferriday and Vidalia. We can't download any data, and can't run bookmobile routes."
She said the library's books were all well-protected even in the branches where there were leaks.
"We do have concern about the wallpaper and our carpet in Vidalia," she said. "We are limping alone but are open."
Catahoula Sheriff James Glen Kelly said numerous roofs were damaged in the parish and a number of trailers were overturned by high winds and tornadoes.
He said 10 tornadoes were reported parishwide. A twister damaged the Seven Oaks building outside Jonesville on September 3 and overturned four campers, destroying two.
"Fortunately, no one was inside," said Kelly.
Most of the electrical service had been restored by the weekend, said the sheriff, while assessment teams from the state arrived to review damage. On Tuesday, a unit of the Kentucky National Guard arrived to help removed debris
"All of our employees and reserves worked overtime and way beyond their shifts during the storm," said Kelly. "There was a lot of work also put in by our local volunteer fire departments. They removed trees from roads and houses, delivered water and just a whole lot more."
The Red River area in southern Concordia Parish "was hit pretty hard," said Lori Jackson, executive secretary of Concordia Electric Cooperative.
"Most of our residential customers were back on throughout our system by Sunday," she said, although there were some isolated areas that would soon be restored.
One of the biggest problems the system faced in returning local service, she said, was in getting power from its two main power feeders -- CLECO and Entergy.
Downed power lines from heavy winds, falling trees and branches was widespread.
"We'll be doing some tweaking over the next few days," she said. "There may be some loss of service for just mere minutes as adjustments are made."
Jackson said many individuals throughout the region were helpful to work crews.
"Some people lent equipment or jumped on a tractor to pull our guys out of the mud," she said. "Some fed our workers in the middle of the night who were in remote areas and overall, a lot of people were really good to our crews and we appreciate it. Our guys stayed at it a long time.
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