South Louisiana residents were still dealing with the aftermath on Tuesday of a violent storm that toppled trees and knocked out power across the region Monday, including to a Baton Rouge sewage treatment plant that sent sewage backing up into the streets.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service on Tuesday confirmed that two tornadoes roared through Napoleonville and Pierre Part, along with a weak one that hit Kenner.
While power had been restored to most area households and businesses as of late Tuesday, there were still some pockets without power.
Eight East Baton Rouge Parish schools will remain closed Wednesday because of continued power outages: Belfair Elementary, Buchanan Elementary, Keel Center alternative school, Glasgow Middle, McKinley High, Melrose Elementary, Southdowns Pre-School Center and Westminster Elementary.
Seven East Baton Rouge Parish schools closed Tuesday will reopen Wednesday: Baton Rouge Center for the Visual & Performing Arts elementary, Broadmoor Elementary, Highland Elementary, Magnolia Woods Elementary, McAuliffe Superintendent’s Academy, Park Forest Middle and Shenandoah Elementary.
Two Recovery School District schools closed Tuesday will reopen Wednesday: Baton Rouge University Prep elementary and Capitol High schools.
Among Catholic schools, only St. Aloysius elementary school in Baton Rouge will remain closed Wednesday. Three other Catholic schools closed Tuesday will reopen Wednesday: St. Francis Xavier elementary in Baton Rouge, St. Paul Interparochial in Paulina, and St. Thomas More elementary in Baton Rouge.
The National Weather Service said the damage in the Baton Rouge area was mostly caused by straight-line winds, although the thunderstorm also spawned at least three tornadoes.
The residents of some smaller towns like Napoleonville were not expected to have power restored until as late as Thursday.
No deaths were reported from the storms, and their wreckage mainly consists of fallen tree limbs, snapped power lines and some property damage.
The American Red Cross set up a shelter Monday night at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge but no residents spent the night there, according to Public Affairs Director Nancy Malone. She said one family stayed Monday night at a shelter in Assumption Parish, but both shelters will be on standby in case other people and families need places to stay.
Entergy Corporation reported that 90 percent of its 176,000 customers during the storm had power restored by Tuesday night and most of the remaining few should have electricity back by Wednesday.
The Dixie Electric Membership Corporation, DEMCO, also said most of its remaining 300 customers who were without power in Ascension and Livingston Parish had it restored as of late Tuesday, although some would still be powerless because of downed trees and other damages causing new outages.
In Baton Rouge, a four-hour power outage Monday night at the city’s South Wastewater Treatment Plant sent raw sewage running in the streets, according to residents in the area.
Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe, who represents the area surrounding the plant, said he received one call from a constituent who lived nearby and reported sewage backing up into the streets in that area.
The plant, which is part of a $250 million taxpayer-funded expansion, is supposed to have generators kick in during power outages.
But the generators are about a month away from their final installation, according to city-parish Chief Administrative Officer William Daniel.
He said similar outages happened when Hurricane Gustav hit Baton Rouge in 2008, which is why the city added generators to its sewage plants and pumps.
Without a backup power source, a power outage at a sewage plant could lead to raw sewage backing up into the streets or into houses.
“What it means is we can’t pump it, so when it gets to the plant, it has nowhere to go,” Daniel said. “That’s why we were working so hard to get the power back on.”
Cleanup crews swept through Baton Rouge on Tuesday, clipping trees and picking up limbs. Other city-parish employees set out at 6 a.m. Tuesday to repair traffic lights throughout the city.
Daniel said residents who have cleared trees and limbs from their yards should leave them in front of their homes. City workers will come and clear them, he said.
Still, trees caused problems elsewhere throughout the city. A tree blocked the path of Stanford and Hyacinth avenues and forced some people commuting to and from the LSU campus to find alternate routes.
Other parishes in surrounding areas saw more property damage, especially those hit by tornadoes.
Chris Bannan, meteorologist with the Weather Service office in Slidell, said the Pierre Part tornado touched down at the end of Derrick Street east of La. 70 and ultimately disappeared into a swamp off Noe Street.
He did not have the precise location where the Napoleonville twister hit.
Another weak tornado hit in Kenner between the Duncan Canal and the intersection of West Esplanade and Loyola avenues, according to Bannan.
The Weather Service won’t know the path and severity of the tornadoes until the damage assessment teams return to Slidell, he said. Teams are still checking damage in Baton Rouge, an area north of Thibodaux, Des Allemands and Belle Chasse.
Tornado damage was evident in both Napoleonville and Pierre Part.
“Never seen weather like this before,” said Michael Berthelot, 65, of Pierre Part, Tuesday afternoon as crews cleared up vegetation piled up near his home on Derrick Street and just off La. 70.
Berthelot said he was on his porch between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday when the sky darkened and the tornado apparently passed. He said he did not see a funnel cloud but heard the wind and blowing rain.
Berthelot said he couldn’t hear the large branch from his live oak tree fall on his house nor his neighbor’s metal roof hit his roof nor his neighbor’s wooden roof beams become driven into his roof, sticking up Tuesday like toothpicks in cheese.
“It was just so much noise, nothing in particular made sense to me. Everything was mumbled-jumbled together,” he said.
As in Pierre Part, residents in Napoleonville were doing their best Tuesday to recover as stacks of debris were already on the roadside and children off from school rode their bikes on city streets like a weekend day.
But electricity is a different matter. Assumption Parish Police Jury President Martin “Marty” Triche said that while many parts of the parish outside Napoleonville had power Tuesday, electrical lines feeding Napoleonville are down, cutting power to the entire village along Bayou Lafourche.
Triche and other parish officials were projecting Tuesday afternoon that the power would not be restored until Thursday, possibly as late as Friday.
That leaves about 1,100 Entergy customers without power in Napoleonville, said Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Capt. Bruce Prejean.
The power disruption also means Napoleonville Primary will not have school Wednesday, though all other public schools in Assumption will resume class, parish officials said.
An 18-wheeler with 14 pallets of ice rolled up in front of residents waiting in line Tuesday afternoon at St. Anne Catholic Church in Napoleonville as a parish worker in a forklift waited for his moment. The ice came from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Carolyn Jupiter, 47, was one of the first in line.
“I need some water. I need some cold water,” Jupiter said after she had her bags.
Afterward, many of the same residents picked up cleaning supplies from the American Red Cross.
Relief came in other ways too Tuesday.
The owner of Napoleonville’s Corner Bar, which had its outer metal roof torn off in the storm, had a generator going, the drinks flowing and pig tails and a pot of white beans on warm.
With the town somewhat shut down and few with power, men sat in the bar and chatted in near total darkness under the remains of the bar’s roof.
Ernest Brown, 64, of Napoleonville, said he said appreciated the free food and hospitality from the bar’s owner.
“This is a little community, and everybody’s looking out for everybody, and that was good on his part,” Brown said.
In Livingston Parish, crews continued to work on Tuesday with power companies to remove limbs and restore power lines in several spots across the parish.
The parish had some damage from Monday’s storm, including trees downed across roadways, power lines and a couple houses, said Mark Harrell, the parish’s emergency preparedness director.
“But we were blessed compared to the rest of the parishes,” he said.
In West Baton Rouge, city officials reported daily operations were back to normal and that there were no road closures.
At the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, deputy director Tuesday Mills and other city emergency preparedness officials spent Tuesday trying to draw a complete picture of all of the damage throughout the city-parish.
Many local officials have reminded residents to take extra safety precautions in the storm’s aftermath.
The American Red Cross is still encouraging anyone who needs help to call its hot line at (800) 256-4733.
The Red Cross says those who have gone 24 hours without power should throw away perishable food from their refrigerators and urged residents to stay away from flood waters.
Entergy officials reminded residents that live wires can be deadly and that they should not trim trees near downed power lines.
In addition, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell released tips for people hiring contractors to repair storm damage to avoid being scammed. His tips include getting at least three bids for the same work, refusing to pay in cash and to pay large down payments, and getting a guarantee and contract in writing.
Advocate Staff Writers Heidi Kinchen and Terry Jones contributed to this report.