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National

Lafourche Parish President On Evacuations

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

People in a large part of Louisiana are doing what they've done many times before - riding out a powerful storm. Tropical Storm Barry is expected to become a hurricane when it makes landfall today in the south-central part of the state. The ground's been saturated by heavy rains already. There is a real fear of storm surges and flooding. More than 50,000 people are already without power.

Jimmy Cantrelle is the president of Lafourche Parish, which extends into the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. President, thanks so much for being with us.

JIMMY CANTRELLE: Well, thank you for having me.

SIMON: And where are you, and what are you seeing, sir?

CANTRELLE: Well, we're - right now, we're seeing some bands of wind. We had bands of wind all night, long, moderate rain - not too much rain, thank God. We're here right now, just - a band just passed. We have a lot of trees that were toppled, and we're clearing them as we go. We've been able to reach most of them and get them out of the way. We were so lucky because we didn't have the training of rain, which was further to the east from us, which we've been expecting, and I'm sure we will be getting it pretty soon.

SIMON: You issued a mandatory evacuation order yesterday for some areas of Lafourche Parish. Did people heed your warning?

CANTRELLE: Pretty much so. It's been very quiet. I haven't heard of anything that - in spite of what I said - not to travel on the road. I'm hearing a lot of people did get back on the road. It was pretty calm. And we were very pleased with the people who listened to what we said. I'll - it stays in effect till 8 o'clock this morning, and it just - we just took it out of - excuse me.

SIMON: That's all right.

CANTRELLE: We just lifted the - we lifted the - well, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

SIMON: That's all right. You lifted the evacuation order.

CANTRELLE: Yes. Right, that's what I was looking for. And so now we're asking people not to get on the road because it's safe. And we just want to make sure that people are safe and use...

SIMON: Right.

CANTRELLE: ...Common sense.

SIMON: Mr. President, have you and, for that matter, citizens who live in Lafourche Parish learned a lot from previous hurricanes and storms?

CANTRELLE: Well, we've been through it so many times, and we always learn a little bit each time - a little more. And we put everything into effect as we learn, as we go along. I guarantee you we were prepared for this one here. I want to thank a lot of people who work very hard, especially public works. Every pump station is fully manned. We are at 100%. And we're still waiting for this rainfall that we should be getting anytime now. And hopefully we don't get it too long so that our pumps can keep up.

SIMON: And what are your big concerns now, Mr. President?

CANTRELLE: My big concern is rainfall right now. We're - we have a gust of wind pretty - but the rainfall is my biggest problem. If we have a train of rain and it just stays in one location that gets 5, 6, 7 inches of rain, there's no way the pumps can keep it up. So that's my biggest concern at this point.

SIMON: May I ask, are you at home?

CANTRELLE: Yes, sir. I'm at home right now. I've been listening to all - all my people have been calling in. We're asking everybody to stay in - inside, not to go out. And I'm trying to heed my own instructions.

SIMON: Well, good for you, sir. Jimmy Cantrelle is the president of Lafourche Parish in southern Louisiana. Mr. President, stay safe. Thanks so much for joining us.

CANTRELLE: Thank you very much, sir. All right, bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.