JBE 090421

Gov. John Bel Edwards answers questions about hurricane recovery efforts in Livingston, La. on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

As if Louisiana hasn’t had enough of tropical weather this summer, Gov. John Bel Edwards was told Saturday that the state’s residents need to brace themselves for the possibility of another system coming ashore perhaps as early as next Friday.

“We were briefed by the National Weather Service this morning. There is a system in the Bay of Campeche and it’s moving into the central Gulf and it is going to come close to Louisiana,” Edwards said after spending the day reviewing storm damage in the Florida parishes.

The system has only a 30% chance of developing into a tropical storm, but it could bring heavy rains to the area regardless, and Edwards and other officials urged residents to be vigilant.

“At this point, I’m not trying to be an alarmist. They are not predicting that it is going to strengthen into a hurricane, but they obviously cannot rule that out either,” Edwards said as local officials and the National Guard looked on in a small lobby outside the Livingston Parish Homeland Security Office that already had high water military vehicles and 18-wheeler trailers whose sides indicated food was inside from last Sunday’s hurricane.

“Even if it hit our area as a tropical storm. We are in no condition to receive that much rainfall. And it could happen by the end of the week,” Edwards said.

The eye of Hurricane Ida passed a few miles to the west of the complex on Sunday last week and 718,559 people in the state are still without electricity. But that’s better than the 1.1 million homes and businesses that went dark – including 90% of New Orleans and two-thirds of Baton Rouge.

Livingston Parish, which still has a substantial number of power outages, has a zero-tolerance, 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Police will stop everyone out on the road.

“If you’re dealing with momma or grandma, they’re going to work with you when they stop you. But if you’re going to get cigarettes, going to get something to drink, you’re going to my jail. It’s just that simple,” warned Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Twelve people have died because of Hurricane Ida, 1.8 million meals have been distributed, 95,000 blue tarps to cover damaged roofs have been requested, and 2.1 million liters water given out, the governor noted.

The National Hurricane Center, which already was tracking Hurricane Larry over the central Atlantic, also issued an alert about disorganized shower and thunderstorms off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The disturbance is forecast to move northwestward over the Gulf and into the central Gulf by Monday. Conditions favor development on Tuesday and gave the system a 30% chance of developing into a tropical storm over the next five days.

Forecasters said that if the system develops into a tropical storm, it could do so off the coast of Louisiana.

“So, we want everybody to do what you can – and we will help – to be in the best possible position to weather this storm by the end of the week,” Edwards said.

State, local, and federal authorities, as well as charities, private companies, and faith-based organizations, already are moving as fast as possible, he said. But everyone is going to have to move faster.

Noting that people are hot and tired, Edwards said, “We’re all doing everything we can to speed relief to you. I ask you to be patient.”

Edwards said that planning is complicated by another storm because the emergency support functions, 17 of them in Louisiana, already are dealing with the current situation. “You can’t put your playbook on the desk and say ‘this is what we’re going to do’ because your people are no longer where they would have been otherwise; your assets are no longer where they would have been otherwise,” Edwards said.

Perhaps most memorably, 2005 saw hurricanes Katrina and Rita come ashore weeks of each other. In the last 368 days, the governor noted, five hurricanes made landfall in Louisiana and four of them were last year.

“Now we don’t want any more. I don’t think we get a vote, so we have to be ready, Edwards said.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.