Winds and rain have not forced officials to call off the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, but they have prompted officials to curtail or reschedule some events.
Festival Executive Director Lee Delaune said this morning that the Blessing of the Fleet and boat parade on Berwick Bay had been cancelled.
Instead, a much smaller ceremony was held this morning at the festival office on Second Street in Morgan City where the 76th Anniversary Royalty, King David Naquin and Queen Alli Landry, toasted.
Normally, the ceremony includes the meeting of the festival queen and king on shrimp boats in the middle of Berwick Bay where they toast.
During normal years, the celebrant of the Mass in the Park, also blesses the fleet of boats in the parade asking for safety for them during their travels and bountiful harvests for those who still catch seafood from local waterways.
The blessing followed the traditionally Mass in the Park at Lawrence Park, which was moved to Holy Cross Catholic Church in Morgan City because of the inclement weather.
Also, the first band scheduled to perform today on the Petroleum Heritage Stage (sponsored by Murphy Exploration) in Lawrence Park, appropriately named Tommy G and Stormy Weather has been called off, Delaune said. The group was set to hit the stage at 1 p.m.
As of mid-morning, all other performers were scheduled to perform today, but Delaune said decisions are being made periodically.
Those include Tesa James (3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.), Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band/Amanda Shaw (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and David St. Romain (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.).
Also, the second stage, the River Front Stage at Front and Freret streets, was not used Friday and Saturday night as planned.
Use of the stage would have marked a trial run in which a second stage was used at the festival to accommodate additional entertainment.
Festival officials also announced this morning that the Street Parade through Morgan City’s Downtown Historic District has been postponed from 3 p.m. today until 3 p.m. Monday, while the Fireworks on Berwick Bay, scheduled for 9 p.m. today, were postponed until 9 p.m. Monday. The fireworks show is sponsored by Bollinger Shipyards LLC, G&J Land & Marine, Teche Regional Medical Center and Central Boat Rentals Inc.
The Children’s Parade, originally scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, has been postponed until 11 a.m. Monday.
Also, Children’s Day activities, which originally were scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, have been moved to 9 a.m. Monday.
Both of these events are sponsored by the Family of Oliver and Marion Bergeron and Sewart Supply.
Delaune said the Children’s Village also was slated to open Monday. If it does open, it would be the first time the event, sponsored by J. Ray McDermott, Teche Regional Medical Center and BP, has opened all weekend.
As for power outages, Cleco reported 86 St. Mary Parish customers were without power. Power lines were out in the Amelia area as well as three transformer outages in Patterson and two more in Berwick. For more information on the outages, visit www.cleco.com.
Entergy also reported an outage in the Stephensville area that is affecting five customers.
As for Tropical Storm Lee, the storm’s center stretched across the central Gulf Coast early today, dumping torrential rains that threatened flooding in low-lying communities in a foreshadowing of what cities further inland could face in coming days.
Lee’s center crawled ashore in Louisiana before dawn after the vast, soggy storm system spent hours during the weekend hovering in the northernmost Gulf of Mexico. The storm’s slow crawl to the north gave more time for its drenching rain bands to pelt a wide swath of vulnerable coastline, raising the flood threat.
By today, at least 6 to 10 inches of rain had fallen in some spots along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, and the National Weather Service warned there was a threat of extensive flooding and flash floods because of the storm’s slow, meandering jog inland.
The drenching rain bands were expected to head northward into the Tennessee Valley later in the week as forecasters warned that 10 to 15 inches of rain were possible along the central Gulf Coast and up to 20 inches in isolated spots.
National Hurricane Center specialist Robbie Berg said the flash flood threat could be more severe as the rains moves from the flatter Gulf region north into the rugged Appalachians.
Closer to the Gulf, the water is “just going to sit there a couple of days,” he said. “Up in the Appalachians you get more threat of flash floods — so that’s very similar to some of the stuff we saw in Vermont.”
Vermont is still cleaning up and digging out dozens of communities that were damaged and isolated by heavy rain from Hurricane Irene last week that quickly overfilled mountain rivers.
No injuries were reported so far from Lee. But even before Lee swept ashore, there were scattered instances of water entering low-lying homes and businesses in Louisiana’s bayou country — a region of fast-eroding wetlands long vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. The storm prompted evacuations in bayou towns such as Jean Lafitte. Thousands were without power.
Late Saturday, lifelong Jean Lafitte resident Brad Zinet was riding out the storm in his mobile home mounted on pilings. He was hoping it wouldn’t take on water.
“We got nowhere to go. We’re just getting everything put up out of the way and hope for the best,” said the 31-year-old plumber.
“This is a way of life around here,” he added. “You just do the best you can and ride it out.”
A week after Hurricane Irene caused massive flooding and claimed at least 46 lives as it barreled up the East Coast, President Barack Obama was heading to northern New Jersey later Sunday for a first-hand look at the damage while keeping an eye on Lee.
The president was to visit Paterson, N.J., where the Passaic River swept through the once-booming factory town of 150,000, flooded its downtown and forced hundreds to evacuate.
At 7 a.m., the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Lee’s center had come ashore on the Louisiana coast about 50 miles west of Lafayette. Maximum sustained winds were 45 mph as the storm headed to the north at 3 mph.
Tropical storm warnings stretched from near the Louisiana-Texas state line to Destin, Fla.
Although Lee’s expected to weaken in coming days, the system was expected to unleash heavy rains over a wide area of the central Gulf Coast and then spread that precipitation into the Tennessee Valley, forecasters said.
To the east, coastal businesses were suffering. Alabama beaches that would normally be packed for the Labor Day holiday were largely empty, and rough seas closed the Port of Mobile. Mississippi’s coastal casinos, however, were open and reporting brisk business.
In New Orleans, sporadic downpours caused some street flooding Saturday, but pumps were sucking up the water and sending it into Lake Pontchartrain. Officials said the levees were doing their job in the city that is still recovering from the deadly Hurricane Katrina a half decade ago.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned residents not to let their guard down, saying: “We’re not out of the woods. Don’t go to sleep on this storm.”
To the east, coastal Mississippi officials were bracing for the storm to move further into the state. “We’ve been getting some pretty good onshore rains,” said Jackson County emergency director Donald Langham.
Harrison County officials said travel on U.S. Highway 90 had become hazardous because winds from Lee have pushed sand from beach onto the eastbound lanes and the rain has created a situation where drivers cannot see the roadway.
“This layer of sand has gotten up on the highway and you can’t determine if you’re on the road, up on the median or the curb,” said emergency director Rupert Lacy.
Flooding in Hancock County left several roadways impassable, and the rain on parts of Interstate 10 at times has been so heavy that visibility was down to only a few feet.
In Alabama, rough seas forced the closure of the Port of Mobile. Pockets of heavy rain pounded the beaches Saturday, and strong winds whipped up the surf and bowed palm trees. But just a couple miles inland, wind and rain dropped significantly.
Wet and windy conditions hovered over Dauphin Island, a barrier island in the Gulf, but conditions weren’t too threatening, Mayor Jeff Collier said. High surf caused some roads to flood, but all were still passable Saturday afternoon.
Precautions were taken to secure anything that could be swept away by wind or waves, and Labor Day concerts and other festivities were canceled. Beaches that would normally be packed were nearly empty.
“The weekend is literally a wash,” Collier said. “It’s really a shame that it happened on a holiday weekend.”
Elsewhere, the National Hurricane Center said Hurricane Katia was trekking across open ocean about 365 miles northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. No coastal watches or warnings were in effect with the storm so far out to sea.
The center said Katia had top sustained winds of 75 mph and was moving at 12 mph with little change in recent hours.