Leaders in East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes said Tuesday that workers were picking up debris in ditches, off sidewalks and clearing drainage canals in one precautionary step as Tropical Storm Cindy looms and reawakens concerns about the flooding that enveloped parts of the region last August.

The National Weather Service for Baton Rouge and New Orleans said Tuesday that they expect 4 to 8 inches of rain as part of the storm, although the potential exists for 10 to 15 inches of rain in localized areas. Baton Rouge could see some flash flooding during the tropical storm, which officials said is more of an initial concern than the kind of backwater flooding experienced in August when area rivers couldn't drain and water was forced back into their tributaries. 

Throughout East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes, people prepared for the storms by filling up sandbags, replenishing nonperishable food and reading the frequent "turn around, don't drown" warnings about driving through flooded streets.

"We're worried about the initially heavy rain, the initial rises on rivers," said Alek Krautmann, a National Weather Service meteorologist. He called backwater flooding a "down the road" issue.

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Baker Mayor Darnell Waites and Central Mayor Jr. Shelton encouraged people at a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon to have a game plan and extra supplies available, as well as to check on neighbors and friends. Summer schools, camps and summer feeding programs in the East Baton Rouge School System were scheduled to remain open Wednesday.

"From a Baton Rouge perspective, we have in advance had our [Department of Public Works] workers going out picking up debris to avoid unnecessary clogging that could take place in light of a prospective storm," Broome said. "We're asking you also if you know of specific areas that you think could have potential for being clogged, please call our office and we will immediately respond ... I will tell you that our team is working very diligently to prepare a comprehensive drainage plan for our city and our parish, and we will be working collaboratively with Central and Baker and Zachary as well as we move forward."

Sandbags are available at Baton Rouge Fire Department stations 7, 9, 13, 14 and 15, along with the St. George Fire Protection District headquarters where people are asked to bring their own shovels. Those in Central can pick up sandbags at Central Fire Station 31, and at the Baker Public Works Department and the Baker Municipal Building.

Broome said the city-parish is in contact with BREC and the American Red Cross about possible shelter locations. Baker has created a temporary shelter at Redemption Life Fellowship Church.

Mark Harrell, Livingston Parish director of homeland security and emergency preparedness, said Livingston Parish had already put out 12,000 sandbags at 21 locations across the parish by midday Tuesday. He said residents in his parish, which was hit hard in August, are leaning forward this time, taking precautions, and the parish is obliging them by leaning forward with them.

"This is the first possible major storm or flood that we could have after August and, with that uncertainty, people are preparing, and I'm really thankful they are," Harrell said.

Officials in Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes also said their parishes had established sandbag operations and were, like Harrell, monitoring regular updates on the rainfall forecasts. Ascension closed summer school classes and camps for Wednesday.

In St. James, officials also called on residents to help clear a path for coming rain and to keep debris out of ditches. In a statement, they asked people to clean fallen leaves, tree branches and debris from their yards, catch basis and storm drains.

But parish officials also suggested that based on current predictions, Tropical Storm Cindy poses primarily a flash flood problem and not a backwater event that was a major source of flooding in the Amite River Basin in August.

Rick Webre, director of the Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said the tropical storm appears to be more of a concern for low-lying areas that traditionally have problems during heavy downpours.

"I don’t believe the projections are showing severe backwater flooding like we did get in August," he said. "It's the localized flash flooding we normally get in a heavy rain."

After testing and some maintenance Monday of Ascension's pumping systems, parish officials have turned on the Marvin J. Braud Pumping Station in the McElroy Swamp, according to Ascension government spokesman Martin McConnell.

The six-pump station, which drains a large chunk of East Ascension, including parts of Gonzales, Prairieville, Sorrento and St. Amant, is draining down water levels in area waterways as a proactive measure to better handle the coming rainfall.

East Ascension drainage officials have long noted that there is a delay between when rain falls in more northern parts of the parish and when runoff can make it through miles of bayous, canals and ditches to reach the pump station in the southeastern corner of the parish.

Todd Baumann, data chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Louisiana Water Science Center, said an expected east wind will also push water from the Gulf of Mexico and into Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas, piling up water at the mouth of the Amite River and slowing drainage. The river basin drains much of the greater Baton Rouge area.

"The thing is it's just going to depend on how the rain falls," he said. "That's always the X Factor. If you get the right cell that pops up in the right part of the basin, then we could see some flooding, and if that cell is somewhere else, then we're going to be OK."

In Assumption Parish, which is west of the Amite River Basin, there are further complications. The Lake Verret area still has backwater from the Atchafalaya River escaping after a reaching a peak nearly two weeks ago. Water levels have dropped nearly a foot in the Atchafalaya since then.

Parish officials said the 4 to 6 inches predicted for Assumption should only pose a concern for low-lying areas or those with regular flash-flooding problems, including Daggs Street in Paincourtville, the Lake Verret area, Belle Rose Lane and the Marais area between Napoleonville and Labadieville.

Assumption's homeland security director John Boudreaux said 4 to 6 inches of rain should be fine, but more than that could trigger flooding concerns.

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​