During a region-wide briefing held at the Caddo Parish Emergency Operations Center, local officials gained a better understanding of the potential rainfalls and flood levels that could result from the large system of storms traveling through the region Thursday through Saturday.
Based on the more moderate predictions provided by the National Weather Service during today’s briefing, the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Department and Webster Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness expect to see flood levels on Dorcheat Bayou and Lake Bistineau similar to that which we have seen during the past two weeks. These flood predications are, however, based on a 5” average of area-wide rainfall from Thursday night to Saturday morning. Some National Weather Service models suggest that an 8” to 10” rainfall may be possible if the system, which is expected to stall, does so over the Northwest Louisiana area.
“At worst we could end up with eight to ten inches of rainfall since the official predications place us in the center of the storms’ primary corridor,” said Webster OHSEP Director John Stanley. “If that happens, Dorcheat and Bistineau may experience more significant flooding than expected.”
In an effort to prepare for the worst, officials strongly encourage residents directly affected by Dorcheat Bayou and Lake Bistineau to prepare for flooded roadways and properties, and to closely monitor weather conditions and rainfall levels.
“Those residents prone to flooding, or those who have a history of flooding, should properly prepare their homes, properties, and households,” said Stanley.
Residents may protect their property with sandbags, which are being distributed by parish officials at both the Sibley and Sarepta public barns. The sandbags are available to parish residents only, and those needing bags should report to the parish barn closest to their residence.
“We also ask that people yield first to those at the highest risk of flooding,” Stanley added. “Those who have flooded in the past are at greatest risk of flooding again during this incident.”
Residents living in areas prone to flooding should also prepare their households by ensuring they have food, medical supplies and other necessary items on hand in the event access to or from their homes is temporarily prevented by rising waters.
The Webster Parish OHSEP office will regularly post updates and emergency service information, including details of sandbag availability, to their website at www.websterparishla.org.
In addition to rain and flooding, the impending storms are also expected to bring continued high winds and potential tornados. With winds being measured by the National Weather Service at 60 miles per hour at elevations as low as 1000 feet, the potential for bowing of such winds is present.
“The grounds are so saturated,” said Sheriff Gary S. Sexton. “With the addition of any wind, we are very likely to see a number of downed trees and subsequent power outages.”
The Sheriff’s Office reminds citizens to prepare their generators and stock up on fuel and batteries in the event that significant power outages take some time to restore.
“Anyone with medical issues requiring power should ensure they have a backup,” said Sexton. “And they need to do that now. If roads become flooded or blocked, it will hinder everyone’s ability to safely travel.”
People are urged to travel slowly, understanding the potential obstacles that could emerge rapidly. Sexton explained that falling trees or other road debris and sections of high or standing water are the most common causes of weather-related traffic accidents.
“And our office expects to be very busy addressing roadways during this,” he said. “Adding issues such as numerous traffic accidents make it even more challenging for us to manage all of the needs related to weather events like this; so we’re asking folks to stay home and reschedule their outings if at all possible.”
In closing the Sheriff added that having fewer people out on wet and dangerous roads results in a faster parish-wide response to, and recovery from, storm damage.
According to local officials, livestock owners should also take the imminent weather predictions into consideration, as recent flooding incidents have already forced some stock owners to urgently relocate their herds.
“Often times the highest flooding follows a weather event by about 48 hours,” said Sexton. “I strongly advise owners of livestock to make preparations or take action now to ensure their stock is in a safe location, away from any flood risk.”
Additionally, the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office has coordinated with local and regional agencies to prepare for speedy and efficient response to emergency needs, road debris and traffic matters. Any requests for emergency services or notification of urgent conditions should be reported to Webster Parish emergency officials by calling 911.