Ascension Parish volunteers prepare truckloads of supplies for Texas
GONZALES — Box trucks and covered trailers were lined up Tuesday morning under an open-air barn at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center, and workers were busy loading them with supplies ranging from bath soap to buckets to batteries.
The Ascension Parish government along with Volunteer Ascension are coordinating a volunteer effort to get flood recovery items to Texas residents in the path of the Hurricane, now Tropical Storm, Harvey.
"Our people were impacted a year ago, and people from Texas helped us, so we're just returning the favor," Parish President Kenny Matassa said Tuesday, as rain from Harvey pounded the metal roof of the Lamar-Dixon barn.
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"There will be a big convoy going out from here," said Sherry Denig, executive director of the nonprofit group Volunteer Ascension.
Organizers, who are being coordinated by St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc, are working with counterparts in Texas to determine when the supplies will be heading out and where they'll be taken, Denig said.
"The team will be coordinating with emergency management professionals in Texas and will leave as soon as possible," said Kyle Gautreau, director of communications for the parish.
By the time the effort launched early Tuesday, six people had provided their trucks or trailers for the trip to Texas, with two more trucks on the way, and people were steadily dropping off donated supplies.
The trucks will be carrying "the same things we needed when we flooded," Denzig said, referring to the August 2016 flood.
Ascension Parish residents "have been through the same thing that people in Texas are going through and know exactly what they need," she said.
Each truck being loaded at Lamar-Dixon had a small sign on the back giving it a number, along with a list of contents that spoke to the hard-earned wisdom of the volunteers.
Truck No. 3, for instance, will be carrying buckets, bleach, garbage bags, gloves, hand sanitizer, masks and hose pipes.
Truck No. 4 will be carrying diapers, baby wipes, toilet paper and paper towels.
Dehumidifiers, fans, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and bottled water, as well as nonperishable food and over-the-counter medications, were some of the items on other trucks.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who was at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center to lend a hand Tuesday, said, "We have true empathy for this. We've been there."
As volunteers worked to load supplies for Texas, parish workers and jail inmates worked at another open-air barn nearby filling sandbags in the event Ascension Parish residents need them.
The parish began last week making sandbags, numbering in the thousands, that are available for residents.
Several roads in Ascension Parish have been closed due to standing water, Gautreau said. A list of road closures can be found on the Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness' Facebook page. One business on Burnside Avenue had some flooding on Tuesday evening.
The parish sent out crews to check on reports of houses flooding and had not found any structural damage, Gautreau said Tuesday afternoon.
The pumps at the parish's Marvin J. Braud and Sorrento pump stations have been activated and are keeping water moving and low, he said.
With Tuesday and Wednesday forecast to be the days with the heaviest impact from the storm, Gautreau said, "The fact that we've been able to keep up is good sign."
"The pumps are not being overwhelmed," he said.
Water at a third parish pump station at Bayou Henderson must reach a certain level before the pumps and the floodgate are activated, and that has not happened "and isn't forecast to happen in this event," Gautreau said.
Elsewhere, temporary pumps the parish moved last week into flood-prone neighborhoods have now been activated in the Astroland subdivision near Darrow and the Southwood subdivision in Gonzales, Gautreau said.
Another temporary pump put into the Buxton area in St. Amant had not yet needed to be activated as of Tuesday afternoon, he said.
"Our crews are on standby" to make that happen, if need be, Gautreau said.
"We're helping Texas the most that we can and keeping an eye on things happening here," Graves said.
Ascension Parish residents can pick up sandbags at the following locations:
- 7th District Fire Departmen, Roddy Road
- St. Amant Fire Department Station 60, Stringer Bridge Road
- Geismar Fire Department, 12171 La. 73
- 5th Ward Fire Department, La. 22
- Prairieville Fire Department, 14517 La. 73
- Ascension Parish Warehouse, Church Street in Donaldsonville