Classes canceled as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches
By JEAN L. KAESS
St. Mary President Paul Naquin declared a state of emergency this morning and school closings were announced as Tropical Storm Isaac approached Louisiana.
St. Mary Parish has cancelled all classes and school activities Tuesday and Wednesday. The district will use local media outlets to announce the reopening of schools.
Central Catholic High School, Holy Cross Elementary School and Immanuel Christian School, all in Morgan City, also will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Stephensville Elementary in Assumption Parish will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Young Memorial Campus of South Central Louisiana Technical College dismissed students at noon today. They will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday and will evaluate the campus’ needs from that point, according to Campus Director Jimmy Sawtell.
Public School Superintendent Donald Aguillard said the decision to close schools was made to afford adequate time to plan evacuation protocols.
The St. Mary Parish School Board will use the district homepage www.stmary.k12.la.us and local media outlets to communicate with the public. The school system also maintains an alternative site for providing information during emergency situations at stmaryparishschools.blogspot.com. Also, follow the school system on Twitter: @stmaryschools.
Sheriff Mark Hebert has issued an order to increase patrols in order to monitor preparation activities across the parish.
Also closed in the area are:
—City Court of Morgan City, Tuesday and Wednesday.
—Tuesday’s meeting of the Morgan City Council has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Morgan City Auditorium Concourse.
As of Tuesday morning, local governments were planning to remain open.
“We may call a mandatory evacuation for parts of the parish south of the Intracoastal Waterway,” said Duval Arthur, Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director. Those areas would include Burns and Cypremort points.
A spokesperson from the National Weather Service said those areas can expect a 3 to 4 foot surge if Isaac stays on its current track.
Arthur said plans to make a shelter available to those who want to voluntarily evacuate would be announced later today.
At this time there are no sandbags at the parish barn.
The Levee District has a contractor on standby to close the temporary flood control structures on the Franklin and Hanson canals and Yellow Bayou, according to Executive Director Hilary Thibodeaux. The district board was to meet at noon today to declare a state of emergency to allow the work to begin.
Parish officials will meet at various scheduled times today with conference calls with the National Weather Service and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security to monitor the situation.
Each municipality made its own preparations and has advisories for citizens.
There is little concern about power generation capabilities at the Joseph J. Cefalu Sr. Municipal Steam Plant. Rather, concerns are with the distribution system for that power. A tropical storm is unlikely to affect the plant’s ability to create or transfer power, Chief Administrative Officer Lorrie Braus said.
If power goes out with winds sustained at 75 mph, crews will not go out to correct the situation until the storm has passed, she added.
Other information she provided for city residents:
—Although no evacuation order (voluntary or mandatory) has been called for St. Mary Parish, prepare for “Shelter-in-Place.” Remain inside your homes and stay off city streets once weather conditions do deteriorate.
—Avoid calling City Hall for non-emergency work orders at this time until after the storm has passed.
—No pleasure crafts or shrimp boats are allowed at the city wharf until further notice.
—The City of Morgan City Sanitation Services will be picking up Monday-Thursday pickup today. Residents having a Tuesday pick-up may place their cans at the street tonight. The crews will be working extremely early to get Tuesday/Friday picked up as soon as possible. Once the can is emptied, place it in a secure location to avoid blowing or floating away.
—Do not place any trash at the curb today. It will not be picked up.
—Sand and bags will be available under the bridge at David Drive. However, no personnel will be there to fill bags. Be prepared to fill your own bags.
—The city is prepared to close the flood gates with the lowest sills, but most are expected to remain open throughout this event unless storm surge projections change.
—The St. Mary Drainage District is preparing for the closure of the Walnut Street Canal if conditions necessitate. Residents on the canal should prepare for its closure now.
—Clean all catch basins.
—Check on elderly neighbors.
—Call OEP for instructions for shelter in place if you have special needs. The number is 337-828-4100, ext. 135.
Three flood wall gates are closed as a precaution — First, Pacific and Utah streets.
Chief Administrative Officer Newell “Bubba” Slaughter said the town has made preparations such as cleaning catch basins and picking up all trash.
Also, he said generators have been placed at the pumping stations to ensure water will continue to flow through the drainage system. Generators also are at the lift stations for the same purpose.
Sandbags may be available for town residents, but no location had been announced at press time.
Mayor Rodney Grogan said Patterson is following the same hurricane preparations as the parish and other surrounding areas.
Patterson City Hall will remain open until further notice. Sandbags will be provided at the Taft Street Sewer Yard for those residents south of U.S. 90 and the railroad tracks.
Sand bags for residents of St. Martin Parish will be available beginning today from 1 to 6 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Doiron’s Landing.
Residents are reminded that they will have to fill the sandbags themselves and are encouraged to bring a shovel to assist them in the process.
Progressive Waste Solutions personnel reported that the company was planning to hold a meeting on storm preparations and changes in pick-up schedules today at 2:30 p.m. Information will be released to the public shortly after so residents can make plans for garbage pickup in their areas of the parish.
Progressvies serves east St. Mary Parish except for Morgan City.