Louis “Pete” Kelley was sitting in his chair outside his home near Bayou Sorrel Friday morning when he heard a loud pop followed by gushing water. 

It was the portable dam the parish set up in his yard earlier this week to hold back the rising waters of the Intracoastal Waterway after a weeklong bout of rainy weather that dumped several inches of rain across the region. 

The dam’s breach near J.R. Drive prompted parish officials to call for a mandatory evacuation for the 1,300-plus people living in the flash flood’s path in parts of Bayou Sorrel and Bayou Pigeon. 

"Bayou Pigeon area residents need (to) evacuate now!” the Iberville Parish Council posted on its Facebook page Friday morning. “You can go to the Carl F. Grant Civic Center in Plaquemine. Red Cross is there and willing to help! You should take HWY 404 to White Castle, then HWY 1 towards Plaquemine. Evacuate Now!!" 

Crews began setting up concrete barriers and sandbags to shore up the AquaDam, which held back the rain-swollen waterways all week. 

About 300 homes were threatened by the floods, but Kelley, an Iberville Parish councilman, said he hadn’t heard of any residents’ homes taking on water. He said when the dam burst -- likely from the water-inflated barrier being overfilled -- much of the water rushed into a wooded area instead of people’s homes. 

For Janet Jordan, who has lived near Bayou Sorrel since 2001, water pooling up in her yard isn’t uncommon. But this week was easily the most water that's approached her house along La. 75. 

Flanked by a bayou and the Intracoastal Waterway, she managed to pump most of the water out of her yard after a deluge of water pummeled the area Monday night. Then the backwaters began to gush in.

With help from her children and grandkids Friday afternoon, Jordan filled an aluminum boat with sandbags and stacked them seven bags high to protect her home. 

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Jordan said she didn’t plan to evacuate, and was unsure what to do with her Great Dane and two cats. The sandbags and pumps seemed to keep the water from seeping inside, she said. 

“If not for that, we would have lost our house,” Jordan said. “We’re just wishing for the best.” 

The Red Cross set up a shelter at the Plaquemine civic center but by mid-afternoon Friday hadn’t received any people needing refuge.

Kelley said he felt confident crews would be able to plug the hole by sundown. 

Parish officials sounded the evacuation alarm just after the National Weather Service called off a flash flood watch that had been in place for much of the week. 

Iberville Parish planned to deploy AquaDams on the east side of the Mississippi River, along Bayou Manchac, after heavy rains and flash flooding this week, but a judge blocked it from doing so.

Barriers managed to significantly slow down the amount of water gushing past the failed dam. And a large number of local and state agents, volunteers and neighbors piled sandbags even higher than they had earlier in the week.

“There’s so many people here it’s unreal,” Kelley said. “The community really came together.”


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad