Parish and state officials were prepared for the worst, but Hurricane Barry passed through south Louisiana over the weekend, dumping much less rain than predicted and with winds that had dropped to about 30 miles-per-hour by the time it finally reached West Baton Rouge Parish.
Barry reached hurricane strength, 70 miles per hour, around 7 a.m. Saturday, but at a speed topping out at 7 miles per hour, took until about 1:10 p.m. to make landfall near Grand Isle.
Local officials said the lighter than expected rainfall created no flooding issues and fallen trees were the biggest problem faced by WBR residents.
“We went into this thing thinking it was going to be a big rain event, but our only problem was with downed trees,” said Jason Manola, the executive assistant to Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot and the parish’s public information officer.
Manola said over 20 trees were reported to have been felled by Barry, but the fallen trees only closed one road, North Palmer Road near Erwinville, and even that closure was brief.
West Main Street in Brusly was also closed briefly after a utility pole was pushed over by the storm’s winds, draping a power line across the street, he continued.
“It went real well for us,” said Port Allen Police Chief Esdron Brown. “We has some lights go out because some trees fell down across power lines but other than that, everything went smotth.”
He said the power outage was limited to avenues A, B and C. “Other than that, we didn’t have any problems, which was great,” he continued.
“The storm didn’t live up to our predictions so we did pretty well,” said Port Allen Mayor Richard Lee III, “On the whole, we had no flooding issues and no injuries to report.”
He said residents need to place their storm debris curbside for Republic Services to pick up on Wednesday or Saturday.
Parish and municipal officials were concerned enough about the possibility of more extensive damage, though, to enact a curfew from 8 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, Manola said.
“We didn’t want our people on the road unless it was completely necessary,” he said. “We wanted to keep them safe.”
Manola said Berthelot and other parish officials were in contant contact throughout the storm to coordinate safety and cleanup efforts, based not only on the information they received from local officials but from updates from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and the National Weather Service.
Mayor David Toups of Addis said parish and municipal officials have always worked together, that cooperation “is just one of the great things about being part of West Baton Rouge.”
“We did great,” the mayor continued. “We stayed in contact with parish officials and those in the other municipalities.”
He said his town at the southern end of the parish was virtually untouched by the storm.
“The town did very, very well,” Toups said. “We were prepared. Our citizens were prepared. We all learned lessons from the Great Flood of 2016.”
He said city workers worked hard to prepare Addis’ drainage system and continued “during and after” to keep the water moving.
Manola said parish workers spent most of the weekend keeping the drainage system clear and clearing fallen trees.
“We didn’t get as much rain as we though so our biggest problem was with the wind,” Manola said.
“We’re very thankful,” Toups said. “Our prayers were answered.”