Rain started pelting the roof of Live Oak Junior High’s gym Saturday afternoon, still hours from when Hurricane Barry would begin battering the Livingston Parish area.

The unorganized storm system with an unusual path has had officials and residents alike confused about how to handle its impacts, or how to predict what those impacts will be, but the six American Red Cross volunteers who’d gathered from around the country were ready come what may.

Many in this region of the Baton Rouge metropolitan area were heavy-hit in August 2016 when torrential downpours catastrophically flooded homes and businesses. FEMA estimated around 75 percent of the parish was impacted, according to Livingston Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director Mark Harrell, though locals think it was more.

Though it was empty as of 1 p.m. Saturday, 100 cots were on standby with another 100 more available in case the storm brought with it the worse end of the forecast spectrum.

The shadow of August 2016's impact has been apparent in Barry’s preparation, from the warnings from authorities to unprecedented sandbag distribution numbers in Livingston Parish to the anxious atmosphere of the Live Oak Junior High shelter.

The volunteers aren't sure who they'll see, or when, and wonder aloud if the rain starting might draw crowds in, or if come nightfall they'll welcome people who've evacuated their homes with the offer of a warm, dry bed.

Shelter manager Alicia Drew, from New Hampshire, is managing the dormitory and food distribution with the American Red Cross, though the Live Oak shelter is technically under parish control.

She was in Baton Rouge for about four weeks after the 2016 flood, and is back again for Barry.

Drew and the five other volunteers who’d traveled from Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and other areas of Louisiana pottered around the vast gymnasium straightening up stacks of blankets and sorting supplies, unsure if they’d remain on standby or be inundated with evacuees.

“It’s shifted west so we’re hoping we’re just on standby but we’re ready for anything at this point,” she said. “This thing is moving so slow so we’re not really sure what to expect.”


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Email Emma Kennedy at ekennedy@theadvocate.com.