Image by Patrick Behn from Pixabay

A potential 15″ surge is not a good thing to see and it would cause devastation to the areas it sweeps over.

Cradling one arm in a sling, Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner Jr. worked with crews Saturday to deliver sandbags to vulnerable spots in his town, a last ditch effort to save what he could as a monster Hurricane Ida churned just offshore. Unlike the massive hurricane protection system that rings the greater New Orleans area, the nearly 4,000 residents of Jean Lafitte, Barataria and Lafitte are relying on a modest 7½-foot levee to protect the town’s schools, municipal buildings and a portion of the evacuation route. Should forecasters’ dire storm surge projections prove true, Kerner worries Jean Lafitte could be devastated for the first time since the levee was built in the early 2000s. A 10-foot wall of water could flood hundreds of houses, he said. If the surge reaches 15 feet, it would leave the area in ruin.  “Anything over 7½, 8 foot would be complete and utter devastation,” Kerner said. “It’d be a historic storm in the worst possible way for the Town of Jean Lafitte, Crown Point, Lower Lafitte and Barataria, all of south Jefferson outside the levee protection.”

We have levees and pumps and are fairly well protected from storm surge but the low lying land toward the delta do not enjoy this level of protection.

Coastal communities across Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes are bracing for what 10 to 15 feet of storm surge could mean for their homes, camps and businesses. Many are facing mandatory evacuation orders as officials expect critical roads to be submerged and levees overtopped. A 15-mile stretch of La. Hwy. 23 on Plaquemines’ west bank will likely become completely impassable as the surge pours over the short, earthen levees that sit just 3½ to 6 feet high, said Patrick Harvey, Plaquemines’ director of homeland security and emergency preparedness. The water is unlikely to flood the homes along that stretch, as most are elevated, he said. But the water will pool and cut off residents between West Pointe-la-Hache and Venice from emergency response for days. “Every storm season, we battle overtopping or a levee breach in that area,” Harvey said.

Grand Isle will probably feel the surge first.

Grand Isle will be one of the first communities to feel the storm surge. Sheriff Scooter Rosweber expects Ida to deal a vicious blow to the barrier island’s 13-foot levee. Areas with newly-placed sand might not stand a chance against a 15-foot-high punch from the Gulf of Mexico. It could breach, and that sand could roll back over the levee, leaving misplaced dunes behind after the storm. “There’s no doubt in our mind that we’re going to flood,” Rosweber said. Several feet of water is expected under the island’s raised homes, some as high as 16 feet in the air. Those houses may not see flood damage, but roofs may be ripped off and power lines knocked to the ground. As of late Saturday, the storm was forecast to make landfall near Morgan City, possibly sparing the likes of Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle from a direct hit. Should that track shift eastward, Kerner and Rosweber say their hometowns could be wiped out. “If it turns and hits us direct, then all bets are off,” Rosweber said. “We’re talking catastrophic damage.”

Once again, the oil companies have made things worse.

The loss of storm-buffering wetlands over the past several decades, due to oil and gas exploration and the levees along the Mississippi River, have left Jean Lafitte incredibly vulnerable, Kerner said. Ida’s looming threat only emphasizes the need for stronger investment in protection. “If they would’ve went a little farther, they could’ve protected an area that gets hit every year,” Kerner said. While climate change is part of the problem, he added, “Lafitte’s struggles have mostly been manmade.” The state plans to spend $300 million to expand flood protection in the area, but the mayor questions whether Ida could take them out before they have the chance. “We make great strides toward total levee protection in Lafitte, but right now we’re just hoping we don’t have a storm before they’re built,” Kerner said. “And this could be the one, and I’m praying it isn’t.”

All we worry about is rain, not so much about surge unless you are up by the Lake. For those of us here, stay safe.

15″ surge – devastation
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