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Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development crews clear a culvert on Seigen Lane ahead of Tropical Storm Barry's expected landfall July 12, 2019.

Hundreds of thousands of sandbags currently line south Louisiana properties as Tropical Storm Barry nears the coast, but authorities are urging last-minute preppers to wind up their safeguarding before nightfall.

Livingston Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director Mark Harrell estimated that as of Friday morning, more than 200,000 sandbags had been filled by parish residents wary of even more floodwater approaching their area.

"We're doing the most massive sandbagging mission I think the parish has ever done," Harrell said. "I understand people are still scared, but I'd rather them be prepared than not."

Harrell was referring to the August 2016 flood in which thousands of Livingston Parish homes were inundated with floodwater during a torrential downpour.

Many residents filling sandbags at a Denham Springs fire station Thursday shared stories of the impact on their homes, some saying they had only recently returned, now close to three years since the event.

Weather officials as of Friday morning said the storm's track was coming into better focus, but have previously been unclear about its track, expected rainfall amounts and timing. It is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Saturday morning.

Harrell said he's urging residents to finish their sandbagging by nightfall Friday to ensure safety.

"We'd like to get everybody taken care of by then because the window is pretty wide and we don't really know (the impacts), so I'd prefer not putting people in harm's way," he said. 

Harrell said crews have been and will be clearing culverts and debris into the final hours to limit the number of potential projectiles the storm could pick up.

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development spokesman Rodney Mallett said his agency had been doing the same.

He said DOTD has stationed additional staff members, has prestaged barriers by known trouble areas that quickly flood and have extended hours of patrol.

"The biggest problem with the pumps is the litter that gets in there and clogs it," he said, adding that crews have been out clearing drains and culverts to minimize impact. "We're doing the most we can with the time and resources we have to get ready for this thing."


Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.