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Heavy rainfall causes some patches of standing water on Dalrymple Drive near the Interstate 10 overpass as the metro area braces for a potential tropical storm, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

WALKER — Rain fell in the Baton Rouge area but largely spared the capital region from flooding and other damage after a brew of thunderstorms and wind swirled in from the Gulf of Mexico before coalescing overnight into Tropical Storm Claudette.

The weather system organized enough by 4 a.m. Saturday to earn the tropical storm designation near Houma, the National Hurricane Center said. It moved northeast from there, dumping between 8 and 11 inches of rain on Slidell, where some residents were stranded in neighborhoods inundated by water.

Baton Rouge to the southern tip of Tangipahoa Parish — a region just a month removed from its last bout of severe flash flooding — was largely spared from the first named weather event to pass through southeast Louisiana in 2021.

“We had our signs and sandbag stations ready Thursday and Friday,” Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said Saturday morning, “but apparently it skipped us, for the most part.”

After initially predicting heavy rainfall east of Baton Rouge and with much of the area under a flash-flood warning, weather experts on Friday adjusted their projections for several parishes in the area, saying they would likely be spared from severe deluges.

No residents of Livingston Parish had dialed in 911 or Homeland Security reports by mid-morning Saturday, according to Ricks.

“We were very blessed this time,” Ricks said.

Parish Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse said it “barely rained” near his home in Walker.

The rest of greater Baton Rouge, as well as the flood-prone Florida and River Parishes, appeared to have weathered the night unscathed.

Officials in East Baton Rouge, St. James, Tangipahoa and Ascension on Saturday afternoon each confirmed receiving zero damage reports from residents.

“We are thankful that Tangipahoa was spared again,” parish President Robby Miller said, “and we are hopeful our neighbors where Claudette hit have minor damage and recover quickly.”

East Baton Rouge officials had received no damage reports by Saturday afternoon, confirmed Mark Armstrong, a spokesman for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Still, the storm "is a reminder we live in South Louisiana and need to be prepared during hurricane season," Armstrong added. 

Residents of the southern portion of Tangipahoa Parish “dodged a bullet,” said Kim Coates, a council member whose district includes stretches of shoreline of lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain.

Forecasters on Friday warned the storm could cause up to two feet of tidal surge along the lakes’ shores. But waters stood at just over a foot-and-a-half on the northeast shore of Lake Maurepas Saturday afternoon, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers river gauge at Pass Manchac.

Storm surge generally poses flood risk to southern Tangipahoa Parish when the shore rises between two-and-a-half and three feet.

In Ascension Parish, officials activated the parish’s Emergency Operations Center Thursday evening, said parish spokesman Martin McConnell. While some residents called the center with questions about where to gather sandbags, none rang with damage reports or to request help.

The emergency hub was shuttered by Saturday afternoon, McConnell said.

The parish also opened the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales to livestock owners — a step it takes so that farmers concerned about animal safety ahead of possible floods can harbor them on high ground. But no concerned livestock owners showed up, McConnell said.

“I can only hope the remainder of hurricane season will be as mild,” he said.

By Saturday afternoon, Claudette was dumping rain on coastal Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle as it continued its northeastern trajectory inland. Its harshest effects on Louisiana appear concentrated in Slidell, where one couple fought back rising waters for three hours.

Forecasters expect the system to reach the western Atlantic Ocean by Monday.

The storm’s northeastern trajectory may prove to be a boon to the river-crossed Florida and River Parishes region, Ricks said.

Had it moved more directly north through central Mississippi, the system could have swelled northern waterways that drop water into the Amite river and other local tributaries.

“It shifted away from us instead of going due north, so we’re not going to have that problem,” he said.

Ricks said he was “a little surprised” that the storm ultimately had such a mild effect on the area.

While heavily-warned storms that end up causing little damage can make residents become lax, he said, the devastation of the 2016 floods that submerged much of the parish is still on the minds of many residents.

“Even though we’re thankful when a storm turns out mild, you don’t want people to get too complacent and not be ready,” he said. “But since the ’16 flood, that has not been a risk. Everyone here is on high alert.”


James Finn writes for The Advocate as a Report For America corps member. Email him at JFinn@theadvocate.com or follow him on Twitter @RJamesFinn.

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