Pictured above is a view from the I-49 overpass at the Cheneyville exit toward Lone Pine. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Blood-Vidrine)
By: NANCY DUPLECHAIN
Hurricane Delta not only brought damaging winds to Evangeline Parish last Friday, it also caused the worst flooding since the early 1990s to northern parts of the parish, particularly Lone Pine, Turkey Creek, and St. Landry. Paul and Tammy Blood Vidrine have been working with the rest of the Lone Pine community to help flood victims around Blood Bend along Highway 115.
According to Tammy, during the hurricane’s torrential deluge, James Ronald Jenkins made a post in the private Facebook group, Lone Pine Community Watch, alerting the community the water in Bayou Cocodrie was rising an inch an hour. Tammy immediately contacted her police juror, Brian Vidrine, and told him they would need sandbags.
On Saturday, Tammy said Paul was the first one to wake up and told her they needed to go to I-49, check the Meeker exit, and check Bayou Cocodrie to see how fast the water was rising. “We knew if it was flooding over, it would spill down to us. He made several welfare checks to elderly people and helped put their appliances on cinder blocks in their homes. We even had our police juror out here putting appliances on cinder blocks,” she said. They also had help from the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department.
Meanwhile, Tammy organized an emergency group on the Facebook group page. Soon, the whole community came together, helping to fill sandbags and checking on their neighbors, even driving their tractors to check on people. “We were all filling our own sandbags. People with two inches of water were filling sandbags for people with three inches of water.” When the Evangeline Office of Emergency Preparedness (O.E.P.) said they had Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and water, Tammy told them no one could get it because they were flooded in. Evangeline Parish Sheriff Chief of Patrol, Captain Joshua LaFleur, made a phone call and had someone deliver the supplies to the community. He also brought some trustees and had them fill a pile of sandbags, which was a relief to the residents who had been filling bags all morning.
Tammy also said the Lone Pine Assembly of God Church made an announcement to its members, and some of their members from Avoyelles Parish came and bagged sand, and so did people from St. Landry. They brought all of the sandbags to the bridges where Blood Bend starts and where those areas started flooding first.
She also contacted Senator Heather Cloud who gave her all the important information she needed. Cloud even called Tammy back to check on the community. “We’re in her district. I was just blown away by the attention and care we got from a senator.” Tammy also reached out to the Cajun Navy 2016 who came to rescue people trapped in their homes. She said they also rescued animals, even a pony that took a ride in one of the boats. Even residents whose homes are flooded still pitched in to help. She said James Ortego and his wife delivered MREs and water to residents, even though their own home is flooded. “It’s just amazing how the community has pulled together,” said Tammy.
Based on the roll book at the local polling station, there are around 280 registered voters in the community. Tammy said most of them were affected in one way or another by the hurricane. As of Wednesday, O.E.P. said there were 24 people who called to report flooding in their homes in the Lone Pine community, but many other were affected in other ways. Either the road is closed and they cannot get out to go to work, or their yard is flooded and they are hoping no one drives through with a boat which would push water into their homes. In addition to the MREs, Tammy said they received barricades to stop onlookers from going to the area and police patrol to stop people from coming in and out because theft was a huge concern.
She said of her community, “A lot of these people are elderly. Some of them are very sickly, and they don’t have flood insurance. A lot of them are still in their homes because they basically have nowhere to go and don’t want to leave their place. It’s great that we have a loving community and everybody knows everybody.”
When asked what else the community needs, Tammy said, “Honestly, God, the Sheriff’s Department, and Senator Cloud have pretty much taken care of everything. It has been amazing how things have fallen together, and it’s all because of the hand of God. This was a terrible disaster, but He put people in our path, and He put people who made a way for us to get the things we needed when we needed it. Things have really progressed.”
While her home is not flooded, Tammy said her road is. “When I settled down and realized what everybody had done and the way God had put people in places to get whatever I needed done, I just cried. I just sat there and cried for the gratitude I had for this community and the people who pitched in and helped.” She recalled the people who pitched in to help in whatever way they could. There was one community member who started calling insurance companies to find out what people need to do and immediately let the group even though they were not in their homes they needed to call their insurance agent and at least get it rolling. Another community member, Brian Johnson, checked the bridges to see where the blockage was because the water was not moving. One community member told Tammy they saw the DOTD truck pass on Highway. 115. Tammy happened to be there, so she flagged him down and asked to see his map. She told him to check the canals in several places because the water was still backing up and not flowing, but it was not flooded below them. “The way everything fell together, it was like dominoes. Boom! And that was all because of the hand of God.”
Tammy thanked the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department, especially Nat and Dainna Andrus, James and Jessica Ortego, Jude and Kelsie Fontenot, Daryl Andrus, and other members who have rallied together to fill sandbags, do welfare checks, and distribute MREs. She also thanked local churches who have reached out to help and pray. If anyone in the Lone Pine community needs MREs and water or anything else, they can go to the central meeting hub, which is the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department.
As of Wednesday, Tammy said the following roads were closed and/or impassable: Milburn Road, Edmond Road, Blood Bend Road, Lone Pine Road, Sadler Road, Elm Bayou Road, Meridian Road (Griffin Hills Road). Curtis Loop was also closed with the whole road under water, and Tammy was told the water was up to the doorknob on at least one home. Highway 115 was open, but you can only make it though in a truck or take alternate routes. Parts of Bayou Toureau Road were impassable. Exit 53 on I-49 was barricaded at the canal bridge area, and Highway 181 was closed at Exit 56 off of I-49. Tammy also said the water is starting to recede south to Centerville and St. Landry.
The flooding concerns around Lone Pine and also St. Landry were relayed to Governor John Bel Edwards as he met with parish officials at the 911-Office of Emergency Preparedness Office in Ville Platte after surveying hurricane damage from the air on Sunday afternoon.
Liz Hill, director of 911 and Office of Emergency Preparedness, told Governor Edwards the water was coming down from Rapides Parish and overflowing Bayou Cocodrie and Bayou Torreau. Hill also said there was flooding in the Easton area near the oil and gas facilities.
Evangeline Parish Sheriff Charles Guillory then told the governor the jail did not have to evacuate, however, Hill reported the privately owned prison in Basile had to evacuate its prisoners to Jackson Parish.
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine further said there was no major damage inside the city except for fallen trees. As for the debris from fallen trees, Solid Waste Director Pat Derouselle said his agency is still picking up debris from Hurricane Laura.
Governor Edwards replied and said the parish only needs one hurricane disaster declaration. He then went on to say homeowners who were impacted by both hurricanes only need to meet one hurricane deductible.