Another Rita: Ike floods thousands of homes in Terrebonne
By Naomi KingStaff Writers
Published: Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 4:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 5:31 p.m.
HOUMA – Hurricane Ike so far has flooded more than 13,000 buildings and 200 miles of road in southern Terrebonne, affecting roughly 20,000 residents, parish officials said today.
Khiry Howard, 13, wades through floodwaters in Senator Circle after he and his family had moved their belongings to their grandmother’s house on nearby Rosemary Street.
Officials, as they have done for several days, continued to compare the storm's effects to 2005's Hurricane Rita, a watershed event that flooded an estimated 10,000 homes. About one of every five Terrebonne residents is affected.
“We were hoping not to have a repeat of Rita, but we have that and worse,” Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois told reporters at a news conference this morning.
Search-and-rescue operations continued this afternoon in low-lying bayou areas, where dozens of residents have been pulled to safety after failing to heed officials mandatory evacuation orders issued in advance of Ike's tidal surges.
All of the parish's bayou communities were cut off to traffic as water flowed from bays, marshes and swamps into neighborhoods.
By this morning, water levels in lower Montegut had receded from about 8 feet above normal to 6 feet, said Al Levron, parish capital-projects administrator and a spokesman for the parish's emergency operations team.
But water continued to rise this morning in east Houma, where the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Houma Navigation Canal continued to swell from Ike’s massive surge.
“The water is still pumping in,” he said.
About half of the 217 apartments in the Senator Circle public-housing complex for low-income residents in east Houma flooded with about 2 1/2 to 3 feet of water. Homes in the nearby Mechanicville subdivision also flooded.
Senator Circle residents Millie Crochet and fiance Willie Coleman also had to be picked up by a National Guard rescue truck.
The couple, both 37, left for Ike to stay with Crochet's father on higher ground.
“We came back to check on things. Thank God we came back cause we found her,” Crochet said, pointing to her neighbor Loria White, who awoke Saturday to water in her yard that continued to rise.
“This is my fourth time living here, but this is the worst I've ever seen,” Crochet said. “At least for Rita you could see the fire hydrant.”
The Houma Navigation Canal was about 6 feet above normal this morning; the Intracoastal 3 feet higher than usual.
As with Hurricane Rita, for Ike water came up from the Lake Boudreaux Basin over Woodlawn Ranch Road into some areas of East Houma. Officials said the Ashland Jail and adjacent juvenile detention center took on about a foot of water inside.
Water had almost filled the Bayou Chauvin basin, Levron said, and is now overtopping the streets at Van Avenue near the Houma utility complex.
"There's about a foot of water in the road there," he said.
Levron said he’d received reports of waters topping levees and coming over La. 56 into the Bayou Lacache area. Bayouside Drive residents could see water escalating if south winds persist.
Some roadblocks have been moved farther inland, officials said. The current roadblock locations are:
-- La. 57 at Woodlawn Ranch Road.
-- Upper Dularge at the Dularge Overpass.
-- La. 56 at tthe Klondyke bridge.
-- La. 55 at the Klondyke bridge.
The Bourg-Larose Highway, including La. 665 to Point-Aux-Chenes, is closed, as is Industrial Boulevard in Houma.
Officials urged the public, unless on urgent business, to stay at home so police and other responders have the space to work.
Search-and-rescue operations continued this afternoon in low-lying bayou areas, employing the Houma Police Department, Lousiana National Guard, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. At least three National Guard helicopters and 13 boats from the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department helped.
No deaths or major injuries have been reported, Bourgeois said this morning. There were no estimates yet on how many had been rescued or how many were left to go.
The Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District is trying to locate and plug any levee breaches and checking on pumping stations. It has also ordered 20 additional portable pumps to help get water out of low-lying areas. Officials are working to air-lift some sandbags into the Montegut area to bolster flood protection but are unsure whether they’ll have the equipment available with search and rescue ongoing.
The City of Houma and the South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association have cut power to all areas that are underwater,officials said. Parish customers can expect occasional outages with Ike's buffeting winds. As of Saturday morning, 40 percent of Entergy customers in Terrebonne were without power, spokesman Henry Gernhauser said.
The parish is sheltering about 480 people in four shelters at Houma Junior High, Dumas Auditorium, and the Schriever Recreation Center, which filled to capacity last night, officials said.
The parish is working to open up Evergreen Junior High as an additional shelter, while South Terrebonne High is serving as a holding area for those rescued by boat.
A distribution center is open at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, and two more will be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today. They are the Lynn Park Shopping Center and South Terrebonne High School.
“Did we have massive flooding and destruction? Yes,” Parish President Michel Claudet said during the 10 a.m. news conference. “But you will hear from these reports what has been done, and there has been no loss of life.”