South of Lafayette Parish, many residents of coastal parishes heeded voluntary evacuation notices issued earlier in the week.

Cypremort Point was mostly silent  Friday afternoon, as Tropical Storm Barry took near-direct aim at the community of fishing camps and vacation homes.

[Update, 10 a.m. Saturday: Barry has been upgraded to a hurricane.]

One group lingered on a dock area behind their part-time home with beers as the winds gradually picked up, having come in for the day to clear belongings from the home. Visiting reporters had probably arrived too late to interview locals preparing for the storm, they said, but there was one resident — a full-time resident — who was sure to be around.

It was Don Meaux, the reputed storm documentarian and unofficial mayor.

Meaux is spending retirement in a mobile home elevated maybe 10 feet in the air, with an older-model Toyota sedan parked underneath. Meaux’s home is locally famous for the center podium facing the roadway: It marks the “grass line” for five tropical storms and hurricanes since 2002.

The grass line, he explained, is the average height at which grass and straw had stuck to the podium.

“The water settles, leaves a grass line on every post. That’s where I get my average water depth,” Meaux said.

He pointed to an area between the line for Tropical Storm Cindy of 2017 and Hurricane Lili of 2002. Meaux has lived here for 15 years, but he estimated the line for Lili based on its relation to Hurricane Rita, which was the only line that extended beyond the top of his suspended deck.

“Hopefully somewhere in here will be the line for Barry,” Meaux said, pointing to the Cindy line, which was about as high as Meaux’s waist.

But for all the dire warnings of life-threatening storm surge and inland flash flooding – that Barry is a “rain event” and not a “wind event” — Meaux is one of the few Louisianans who is more worried about wind than water.

The wind forecast for Barry, after all, was teetering toward a hurricane strength, and it seemed likely the eye might pass over Meaux’s home, which he described as a “paradise.” His neighbors up the road were certain Meaux would ride out the storm at home, but Meaux said he was concerned.

The stilted trailer, he said, is getting up in age, and he wasn’t certain it could withstand the winds of a Category 1 hurricane.

“If I’d be in one of these other camps, I might end up staying. I’d love to document it,” Meaux said.

Farther east on U.S. 90, some business owners in Morgan City were boarding windows and sandbagging doorways Friday in preparation for high winds and heavy rainfall expected to accompany Tropical Storm Barry as it comes ashore early Saturday.

America's Cajun Navy, which calls Lafayette Parish home, is in town, set up blocks from the Atchafalaya River, which is still above its banks and pushing against flood walls from spring flooding.

John Billiot, president of the volunteer rescue group, had four boats, a rescue truck and crews waiting under the four-lane U.S. 90 bridge at noon Friday after answering a call from city officials to standby just in case rescues are needed during the storm.

"We're here because this is where it's going to hit hardest first," he said.

Since 7 a.m. Thursday, Billiot said, the group received about 1,200 calls from officials and residents from across the area.

"People worried about relatives in Morgan City or Pierre Part, or they have an aunt on dialysis or a grandma on oxygen," he said.

Some local residents stopped by to volunteer their time and boats, and a city employee who lives nearby said he'll be cooking for the standby rescuers.

A few miles away in Stephensville, part of lower St. Martin Parish just a stone's throw from a levee holding back the swollen Atchafalaya River Basin, residents were still recovering from water that's been high since February in surrounding bayous that flooded some homes until dropping a few weeks ago.

Now they're staring down a potential hurricane that could drop 20 inches of rain on them, St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars said Friday morning. 

Storm surge also is a concern, he said, but a barge sunk in Bayou Chene in May as a barrier to the river's backwater flooding as well as levee improvements are expected to significantly diminish the storm surge.

In upper St. Martin Parish, Cedars said his biggest concern is wind.

"According to the forecast, we're going to be looking at 8-10 hours of tropical storm level winds" and possibly stronger gusts, he said.

He cautioned, though, that Tropical Storm Barry was being unpredictable. Any wobbling east or west could change the effects on his parish.


Email Ben Myers at bmyers@theadvocate.com. Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.