Friday, September 23

Beauregard: Worse before better

Grim-faced Beauregard Parish emergency preparedness officials gathered for a final briefing early Friday, as the weather conditions outside continued to deteriorate.
By early Friday, gusty winds were blowing across the parish, with a thick dark bank of clouds filling the skies overhead.

Glen Mears Sr., the director of the Beauregard Parish Office of Homeland Security of Emergency Preparedness, said by 3 p.m. Friday the parish is expected to be buffeted by tropical force winds — in the 40-50 mph range with gust over 50 mph. Rainfall is expected to be 5-7 inches on Friday, and 7-8 inches Saturday.

Winds are expected to increase and reach hurricane force — above 74 mph — after midnight Friday.

The parish, along with Vernon Parish, remained under an inland hurricane warning Friday.

By Saturday, winds are expected to be in the 40-50 mph range through the afternoon, with gusts up to 75 mph, and then decreasing to 35-45 mph.

Heavy rainfall is also expected, along with the threat of tornadoes.

“Folks, it is going to get pretty bad for a time and then things will start getting better,” said Mears. “We are in a critical situation right now and our shelters are full.”

Mears said because both Beauregard and Vernon shelters are filled to maximum capacity Friday, he told responders and lawmen to send evacuees north toward Arkansas, especially buses of evacuees.

“We are taking care of our own,” he said. “If we have locals that need shelter or people broken down on the side of the road, we need to squeeze them into our shelters.”

As of 11 a.m. Friday, there were between 3,000 and 5,000 evacuees from Southwest Louisiana in Beauregard Parish shelters. They are sharing space with some Hurricane Katrina evacuees from nearly a month ago.

A priority for lawmen Friday was to get people, who have either broken down or run out of fuel on the parish’s roadways, into shelters.

As of 11 a.m. Friday, about 12 motorists had been found stranded on the roadways.
Mears said the voluntary evacuation of Beauregard’s lower lying areas and those living in mobile homes continued Friday.

“By noon, we will need to buckle down and ride out the storm,” he said. “As soon as the storm passes, mostly likely Sunday, we need to begin a damage assessment as soon as we can.”

Mears also noted search and rescue operations, if needed, will begin once the storm has exited the area.

“For now, we are going to just have to hunker down and then we can start to move around,” he said. “Depending on where the storm goes and how long it stays, it could be next week before we are up and running.”

It could be several weeks before Cameron Parish and lower Calcasieu Parish evacuees are able to return home.

“With the storm surge and the possible accumulation of 25 inches of rain in Calcasieu Parish, it could be a long time before these people are able to go back home,” said Mears. “Cameron Parish could look like parts of St. Benard and Jefferson parishes. We can only hope and pray we don’t have this.”

Once the winds top 60 mph, emergency responders will not be allowed on the roads, Mears said.

“Once the winds get up, we will all be on our own until after the storm gets by us,” he said. “For the next 48 hours, we will have to make do with what we have.”
Beauregard Parish Sheriff M. Bolivar Bishop offered words of comfort to those have been preparing for the storm for nearly a week.

“We have water and supplies coming from Baton Rouge,” he said. “Just take care of yourselves, your families and may God bless.”

Also, the Rev. Jon E. Tellifero, pastor of the First Methodist Church of DeRidder, led the group in a mass prayer at the conclusion of the briefing.

“We are praying for a miracle and for minimal damage,” he prayed. “We ask Father that you protect life and give the volunteers enduring strength and insight in the midst of the storm. We are a people of faith and hope.”

Shawn Martin
Beauregard News Bureau Chief

No comments: