Local leaders have been preparing for heavy rains from a tropical cyclone that's predicted to strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall by the week's end.

Preparations in Lafayette Parish have included everything from clearing debris from ditches and coulees to pumping water out of neighborhood retention ponds in anticipation of heavy rainfall associated with the storm.

Officials are using lessons learned from unexpected, widespread flooding in August of 2016 to prepare for about 12 inches of rain forecast for Acadiana through the weekend.

"The 2016 flooding was a surprise to everyone because there was no prediction that we'd have that much rain in that short amount of time," said Craig Stansbury, director of homeland security and emergency preparedness in Lafayette Parish. "We have a little more advanced notice this time, whereas last time, we didn't even have meetings ahead of time."

Stansbury has been meeting twice a day with local elected officials, fire departments, law enforcement agencies, military forces, school officials and nonprofits to make preparations based on the latest weather forecast.

"In 2016, we weren't able to make preparations with the vehicles, with the manpower ahead of time like we are doing now," he said. "We were actually getting that equipment and calling people in during the event. This time, we're able to get all of that ahead of time ready on standby."

Municipalities in the Lafayette area have been bracing for the worst while hoping to avoid any serious damage.

In Lafayette, public works drainage crews have been checking systems for any signs of potential blockages and have been encouraging citizens to remove debris from their storm drains and ditches ahead of the storm.

"The safety of citizens is our primary concern," said Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux. "I ask that everyone stay up to date on the storm’s progression and pay attention to surroundings during this time."

In Youngsville, city employees have been busy creating additional storage by pumping down some neighborhood ponds, working with farmers to remove field culverts that could have an adverse impact to upstream drainage, videoing drainage lines to inspect for blockage and working with contractors and developers to secure job sites to minimize debris that may end up in drainage systems.

"I'm concerned about the safety and homes of our residents," said Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter. "If there's anything I can do to give more peace of mind to our residents, we're doing it."

In Broussard, public works employees were taken off of their normal jobs to clear debris from coulees and ditches around town this week, according to Mel Bertrand Jr., who serves as the city manager and public works director. That means using rakes and shovels to remove leaves and sticks from ditches and using backhoes and excavators to remove sediment from larger drainage channels like coulees.

"We're going to be as ready for water to flow as possible when the first drop of rain hits Broussard," said Mayor Ray Bourque.

In Carencro, workers have been making the rounds to clear drainage channels, place barricades in areas prone to flooding and add more sand to the self-bagging station behind the community center at 5115 N. University Ave.

"We're telling people to just be prepared and aware," Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux said. "Make sure to start stocking up on things. I don't want to put the scare in people, but you've got to be ready for the worst, you know?"

In Scott, crews were working to pump water out of the city's two primary detention ponds, behind Westside Elementary School and a privately owned pond near Mills Street, as well as some smaller ones in subdivisions. 

"I think just doing that will really help with regard to water storage," said Mayor Jan-Scott Richard. 

In Duson, workers have been clearing ditches and filling hundreds of sandbags to make available to the town's residents.

"We are just keeping our eyes open," said Duson Mayor Johnny Thibodeaux.

Acadiana Advocate Staff Writer Ben Myers contributed to this report.


Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.