ST TAMMANY PARISH -- It takes a lot for residents who live near or along the Pearl River to get worried, but tonight’s already high river level coupled with the potential rainfall from Hurricane Harvey has them on alert.
Jessica Gauley, with Honey Island Kayak Tours, is tying down her equipment for the night. She’s concerned it will stay that way next week if Hurricane Harvey turns toward Louisiana.
“We’ve had a lot of rain this year, as everybody knows, so the river levels are a lot higher than normal,” Gauley said. “Usually we’re about 4-to-5 feet water level in this area and right now we’re at 10.3 feet.”
Further up the river in Bogalusa, Gary Parker says they’re already seeing abnormal condition for this time of year. He thinks what could come with Harvey could lead to something unprecedented.
“For that thing to get in our area and hang up, and us get two-to-three feet of rain … it could be the worst we’ve ever seen and we’ve seen some really bad stuff,” Parker said.
Fortunately, the National Weather Service is only expecting five-to-ten inches over a five day period, most of it falling from Bogalusa South. Without additional water coming on top of that from as far north as Jackson, forecasters are only predicting residents to experience minor flooding along those waterways.
That’s often just water slightly outside river’s banks, closing a gravel road or two. However, parish leaders are preparing for anything.
“We’re planning on rain because that’s what the National Weather Service is telling us,” Dexter Accardo, Director of St. Tammany’s Emergency Operations Center, said. “We have to look at all of our precautionary measures we need to put in place.”
For residents along The Pearl, those measures are helping each other prepare and spread the word.
“If you’ve got personal property on the river, you better check on it if you want to get it out,” Parker said. “Play it safe.”
“Where I live is actually the high land of my neighborhood, so I'm preparing for my property to become a parking lot,” Gauley said. “As long as my neighbors have a way to kayak or canoe to my house and get in their vehicles, they can still make it to work.”
There was some concern over some gauges being out along the waterway, making it harder to keep an eye on the river levels, but parish leaders tell us all 11 gauges they own are working and delivering data.