Storm preparations ramped up across the New Orleans metro area Monday, and though the worst fears about Hurricane Sally’s high winds and heavy flooding had shifted to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, southeast Louisiana residents in vulnerable areas were still bracing for an onslaught of wind and water.
A move east in Sally’s forecast track overnight on Sunday put the storm on a path to buffet the Louisiana coast before making landfall in Mississippi on Tuesday. The exact trajectory of the slow-moving storm remained uncertain, however, and officials still expect area parishes to suffer a blow even if they avoid a direct hit.
“That’s a good thing for us, but we’re preparing for some significant storm surge still,” said St. Bernard Parish Parish president Guy McInnis on Monday morning, in reference to Sally’s jog east.
Because of the storm’s slow approach, officials expect Sally to churn water toward St. Bernard for a full 12 hours and push the height of its storm surge to the higher end of the 7 to 11 feet forecasted, McInnis said. The parish is expecting about 6 feet of water to cover Florissant Highway, he said.
The surge will not be a problem within the hurricane levees constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but areas outside them are expected to face significant flooding.
Lake Catherine, Venetian Isles and Irish Bayou, all outside of New Orleans’ flood protection system, could see between 6 and 9 feet of water. Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation for those neighborhoods Sunday ahead of the closure of floodgates in that area. The city halted public transportation and cancelled Tuesday trash pickups.
“There is still risk in terms of excessive rainfall and strong winds locally. We are seeing that most of that will occur,” Cantrell said during a Monday press conference to discuss preparations for the storm.
In St. Bernard Parish, the major gates on Louisiana 39 and 46 were scheduled to be closed by early Monday afternoon, which would leave the perimeter of the east bank’s flood defenses almost completely sealed for the first time since Hurricane Barry in July, 2019, said Derek Boese, chief administrative officer for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East.
Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle has called for a mandatory evacuation Sunday morning “due to sudden changes in Tropical Storm Sally.”
Officials in Plaquemines Parish, all of which sits outside the federal levee system, called for a mandatory evacuation of the entire east bank and all areas below the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery on the West Bank. The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office also instituted a curfew from sundown to sunrise until the mandatory evacuation lifts.
Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. was stacking sandbags on Monday morning in south Jefferson Parish. The town’s evacuation order took effect at noon on Monday, but the new forecast has kept most of the town’s 2,000 residents in place, Kerner said.
“About 95% were going to evacuate, but they’re all experts on storms and they saw that eastward shift, so now maybe 25 or 30 percent will go,” he said. “That east turn has made us very, very happy…but, look, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Hurricane Laura late last month served as a rehearsal for Sally. Jean Lafitte had dropped hundreds of sandbags and added a cache of portable pumps to handle flooding in case the Category 4 storm had steered toward it.
New Orleans officials urged caution Monday as Hurricane Sally continued to head toward southeast Louisiana, bringing with it the potential for…
Grand Isle was also under a mandatory evacuation order — its third of the 2020 hurricane season — and had mostly emptied out by Monday. Maybe 250 of its 1,500 residents were sticking out the storm, said Mayor David Camardelle.
Grand Isle’s storm surge levee was heavily damaged during Tropical Storm Cristobal in June, leaving the island vulnerable to other storms.
“Our main concern is LA 1 getting flooded,” Camardelle said of the only road to the mainland.
In Lafourche Parish, evacuation was mandated south of the Leon Theriot Lock in Golden Meadow and recommended for all mobile home residents in the parish. Port Fourchon, the large oil and gas port on the south tip of Lafourche, was ordered to evacuate Sunday evening. Facility operators were told to secure fuel tanks, hazardous materials and all building doors and windows.
Less severe impacts from Sally were expected in areas west of New Orleans, though officials there were still bracing for the worst.
Just weeks after Hurricane Marco fizzled and Hurricane Laura veered westward to bring its devastating winds to the Lake Charles area, the New …
On Sunday, local officials ordered mandatory evacuations for St. Charles Parish and wide areas of St. John the Baptist Parish north of Airline Highway, many of which were flooded out eight years ago during Hurricane Isaac, a similarly slow-moving storm that squatted over the region.
Those orders came when Sally appeared headed straight for them and remained in effect after Sally shifted. St. Charles Parish government spokeswoman Samantha de Castro cited a significant threat of storm surge in areas unprotected by levees.
In New Orleans, Lakeshore Drive was closed for Sally by late Sunday, as the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority began shutting the first of 84 flood gates in the region. Plans called for manning the authority’s pump stations starting at 6 a.m. Monday.
But across New Orleans, a city half-shuttered from the coronavirus pandemic, there was little sand-bagging, boarding-up of windows or signs of many people leaving town ahead of the storm.
As wind picked up in the Marigny, U.S. Army veteran Matt Easley, 71, sat on his stoop in flip-flops, waving to neighbors walking their dogs. Easley bought his 200-year-old house in 1988, fixed it up and evacuated for Hurricane Katrina, he said, but for no other storm before or since.
“I haven’t heard from anyone that they’re leaving, or that there’s a reason to change places. If 97 of 99 pumps keep working, we’ll be OK,” he said. “I’ll put my car behind my house and hold on. Not much else I can do.”
A neighbor, Barbara Cribbs, 82, said she had prepared to hunker down before Hurricane Laura steered wide of New Orleans last month on its devastating path through western Louisiana. Once again, Cribbs tied down her yard furniture and stocked up at the grocery. Now she’s just hoping the power stays on.
“I’m so tired of doing this,” she said.
Staff writers Jeff Adelson, Tristan Baurick, Della Hasselle and Jessica Williams contributed to this report.