Tropical Storm Sally may be shifting eastward, but officials in Ascension Parish have been going through their standard hurricane preparations.

The pumps at the Marvin J. Braud Pumping Station went on shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday to begin lowering water levels in the east bank's bayous and canals and sand bag sites have been set up across the parish, a government spokesman said. 

Parish officials pump down waterways so they are better able to handle runoff from heavy rain in major storms. U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges in the New River Canal and in Bayou Francois and Black Bayou near Gonzales showed Monday morning that water levels had dropped about two feet since Sunday evening.

Pumping by the station in the McElroy Swamp in the southeastern corner of the east bank affects drainage in around 76 square miles of that side of the parish, including Gonzales, St. Amant and parts of southern Prairieville and greater Sorrento.

Martin McConnell, the spokesman, said 20 different sites have been set up. He added the parish hasn't been able to replenish the shipping containers that normally hold pre-filled bags. They were used for Hurricanes Marco and Laura a few weeks ago.

"All day, yesterday, we had three dump trucks running and bringing to various places around parish, so people have sand and bags," McConnell said.

Though Sally's eastward shift has lessened the risk of heavy rain and wind from a storm that is expected to develop into a slow-moving hurricane, the lower parts of Ascension still face some risk from expected storm surge of four to six feet in Lake Maurepas, the National Hurricane Center says.   

Surge modeling from the the National Hurricane Center suggests lowest parts of Ascension, Livingston and St. James parishes could see between and more than 1 feet of water on the ground, though most of those ares are north of I-10 in St. James and the far lower reaches of Livingston and Ascension that are lightly populated swamps.

The National Weather Service office in Slidell says area west of Interstate 55 in Tangipahoa and St. John the Baptist parishes will see between 3 and 7 inches of rain as Sally makes landfall and heads inland. The National Hurricane Center says Ascension and neighboring St. James and Livingston parishes can expect around 2 inches over the next five days.  

Parish officials also announced on Sunday that they would be accepting livestock at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center near Gonzales. Owners have to make an appointment to use the center to shelter their animals. Call (225) 450-1009. 

The 265-acre complex, which has several horse and cattle shows each year and has several livestock barns, is already home to the parish animal shelter, Cara's House.

The shelter's animals were moved from their home location in Sorrento when Marco and Laura were threatening the state and hasn't yet returned. They occupy one of Lamar-Dixon's barns.

"We are not taking this turn for granted. Water and rain have always been big issue in Ascension Parish," McConnell said.

"We're ready to be ready," he added of the parish's preparations.

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