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- Officials predict more flooding in Ouachita
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|Officials predict more flooding in Ouachita|
If Ouachita Parish receives excessive rain from Hurricane Ike, parish residents could encounter flooding like they battled last week as Hurricane Gustav made its trek across Louisiana.
That's what parish engineer Don Harrison and Ouachita Parish Homeland Security Director Butch Beckham said. They delivered their remarks as weather forecasters predicted Hurricane Ike would make landfall along the Texas coast. Ike could turn eastward toward Louisiana, according to forecasters, because a high pressure system over Texas would force the hurricane in that direction.
Harrison, an engineer for the parish police jury, said Ouachita received 10 inches of rain in August. The parish has received more than 10 inches of rainfall in the first week or so in September.
He said the two major drainage outlets for the parish - the Ouachita River and Bayou Lafourche - were "basically full and rising."
"Those two channels are what we look to as far as impacting major flooding that might occur in the parish," Harrison said. "Everything on the east side of the river drains to Bayou Lafourche, and everything on the west side drains to the river."
"Those two channels, showing the dramatic rise over the last couple of days and looking into next week, has caused us some concern," Harrison continued. "We feel like we need to be anticipating and preparing for a worsening situation if we get any rainfall."
Bayou Lafourche is "supposedly cresting," Harrison said, but the parish is still receiving runoff from Arkansas.
"It's a very, very high level (of runoff) causing backwater to back up into the major tributaries," he said. "Those in turn will impact how much outlet capacity we have if we get any additional rain.
"Bayou Lafourche is at a high level and it's backed up into our major outlets, and if we get any additional rainfall on top of what we have right now, it could be very serious."
The Ouachita River is not expected to crest until Sept. 23. It will crest about one foot below flood stage, Harrison said.
"And, that's with no additional rain," Harrison explained. "We're watching Hurricane Ike and the potential impact that might have as it moves up toward our area. Right now there's some predictions we could receive anywhere from four to eight inches of additional rain in about a week.
"We do know we're in a serious condition now, and any additional rain will cause some major problems, and we need to be looking ahead to what might happen."
Parish officials will work to identify problem areas over the next several days to set up assistance for residents living in those areas, according to Harrison.
If Ike turns once it makes landfall in Texas and heads toward northeast Louisiana, Beckham said, "we could have anywhere from eight to 10 inches of rain. The water is down and moving, but it's not moving very fast."
He said parish officials are planning for the worst. Shelters will be open if local residents are forced from their homes because of flooding.
Beckham participated in a fly-over throughout northeast Louisiana on Saturday. He said a good portion of northeast Louisiana is still battling standing water. He said the flood water in areas north of Ouachita Parish is at levels higher than what can be found here.
"All that water is moving south," Beckham said. "It's not moving like a tidal wave, but it's slowly moving south, and it's getting stopped up now and not getting out of Ouachita Parish."
"We're going to have that water here," Beckham continued. "If next Tuesday we have a compound of the storm that's coming in, it's not going to help."
If Ike steers clear of northeast Louisiana, there could be chances of some rainfall in northeast Louisiana.
Monday's thunderstorm produced one inch of rain in Ouachita Parish, Beckham said.
"Right now an inch of water is an inch too much," he said.
Since flooding early last week, the homeland security office has received about 500 calls from homeowners saying they had damage. Beckham expects that number to double.
He said it is important that people report flood and wind damage so the parish can submit estimates to the federal government in hopes of receiving a federal disaster declaration for Ouachita Parish.
Call (318) 322-4335 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to report damages.
At this point, Ouachita Parish is not included in the federal disaster declaration. Gov. Bobby Jindal asked President Bush to amend the federal disaster declaration he issued last week to include all Louisiana parishes.