St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne warned residents Friday that Hurricane Ida is expected to create "widespread power outages for an extended period of time," comparable to Hurricane Gustav's impact more than a decade ago.
Dufresne also strongly encouraged people living in mobile homes to find other, safer shelter before early Sunday.
Though the president said he was not calling for a mandatory evacuation at this time and doesn't expect to do so, the parish shelter of last resort inside the Lutcher High School gym opens 7 a.m. Sunday.
In 2008, Hurricane Gustav brought in heavy winds that knocked out power across the region for weeks in some places. In St. James, outages lasted primarily around 7 to 10 days, parish officials said.
"The current storm forecast and anticipated impacts are very similar to Gustav," Dufresne said in a video statement posted on Facebook. "This means we cannot take this storm lightly, and we can expect a high probability of trees and powerlines down and wind damage "
He said he expected the parish will experience "widespread power outages for an extended period of time."
St. James, like nearby Ascension and a handful of other parishes along the Mississippi River, has low-lying areas that are susceptible to storm surge from Lake Maurepas.
Surge from Ida is expected to reach 3 to 5 feet inside the inland lake tied to the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Pontchartrain and the Rigolets.
The parish is expected to receive 8 to 15 inches of rain; low-lying areas are expected to see flash flooding. Dufresne said St. James has made drainage improvement in recent months and set up sandbag sites across the parish.
People staying in the shelter should bring three days of food and medicine, bedding and toiletries. Residents who need a ride to the shelter should call the Citizens Service Center at (225) 562-2500.
He urged residents to be "neighborly and a helping hand" to older residents and others in need so they can prepare for the hurricane.