STORM PREPARATION — Tyrell Fenroy and sons Landon and Aiden of Poche Bridge fill sandbags on Sunday, Aug. 23 at Paul Angelle Park in preparation for Tropical Storms/Hurricanes Marco and Laura that were moving toward Acadiana. Once they finished filling their bags they spent several hours helping others fill more sandbags.(Sally Angelle)
Parish braces for Laura
As the Teche News went to press Tuesday afternoon, southwest Louisiana residents were bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Laura, expected to reach the coast beginning Wednesday afternoon.
The eye of the rapidly strengthening storm was projected to be centered on the Louisiana-Texas border, although there was a possibility of a westward drift that could shift the eye more into southeast Texas.
Winds around Laura’s eye wall were forecast to reach 115 mph with gusts to 130. But St. Martin Parish would more likely see sustatined winds of 60 to 80 mph with gusts close to 100 mph.
St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars declared a State of Emergency on Sunday and requested a voluntary evacuation for residents in the Stephensville/Belle River area of lower St. Martin Parish.
The type of winds expected from Laura are very likely to result in downed trees, roof and structure damage and extended power outages across portions of St. Martin Parish.
The start of sugarcane harvest is just a few weeks away, and farmers are in the middle of planting cane for next year’s crop. Blair Hebert, AgCenter agent for sugarcane in the Bayou Teche region, said farmers have been able to finish about a third of the planting.
But the cane awaiting harvest will be affected by wind. If the plants are blown over, or lodged, the stalks will tend to grow upright if the cane isn’t knocked flat, but broken cane stalks will not recover.
“Sugarcane is a very resilient crop, and we’re certainly going to test it,” Hebert said.
This year was shaping up to produce a good sugarcane crop, possibly one of the best. “It sure had that potential to be up there,” he said.
AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said rice grain that’s still in the field could be knocked off the plants, and stalks could be blown down. Mature rice will sprout and become worthless if it is flooded. “Basically, you could lose the whole crop,” he said.
The soybean crop looks good this year. “Overall, the growing season for rice and soybeans has been very good,” Harrell said.
“It would be a big disaster for a storm to come in this late and ruin this crop,” Harrell added. “You can do everything right all year long and have this taken away in an instant.”
The St. Martin Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is coordinating local response to the storm and anyone needing further information or assistance should contact that agency by calling 337-394-2808.