For all the damage left behind by Hurricane Ida, matters could have been made much worse if the levee system of South Lafourche had failed, but the levees held strong when it mattered most, according to an article from HoumaToday that details the strength of Lafourche’s levees.
On August 30, 2021, it was reported by the Associated Press that Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards examined a preliminary survey of the state’s levees, and he reached the conclusion that the levee systems, thankfully, had done “exactly as they intended and held the water out during Hurricane Ida.”
Hurricane Ida initially made its landfall on the shores of Port Fourchon on August 29, 2021. When it touched land, it was a vigorously strong Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph. These finds blew down countless trees and decimated many homes in its path, but they were not able to penetrate the South Lafourche Levee system despite facing a particularly high storm surge of 12 to 15 feet.
Windell Curole is the executive director of the South Lafourche Levee District, and after he had spent hours looking over the Lafourche levee system in late September, he had said, “it’s still amazing looking at what took place and the power of that storm. This levee was originally designed for a strong Category 2 or a weak 3. It was a close call. There were no guarantees.”
Curole continued to detail how essential the levee system’s foundation was throughout the roughest parts of the storm by saying, “ We knew the winds were extremely strong for an extremely long time. We didn’t get a chance to get to the pump station and the floodgates for 18 hours. I’ve never seen South Lafourche look so bad. That wind came in and just tore it up. If we would’ve had a levee breach, we think people would have died. You can’t move when the wind is blowing like it was. There would have been 5 or 6 feet of water in some of those houses. We are very fortunate that didn’t happen.”
The news of Lafourche’s successful levees was well-received being that the United States Corps of Army Engineers had decertified south Lafourche’s hurricane-protection system after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They had attributed the decertification to the levees lying too low to be able to provide adequate protection.
At one time, the ring levee in South Lafourche was only 13 feet high in the south and nearly 8 feet high in the north, but after residents passed a 1-cent sales tax in 2015, the system was appropriately elevated. A new building program was created in the district to raise the levee to at least 16 feet and 13 feet above sea level on the south and north ends, respectively.
Additionally, praise came in from Washington to celebrate the Lafourche levee’s strength, as it was reported that United States Representative Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, praised Curole and the entire district for taking the time necessary and putting in additional effort to improve the levee system. He said, “Curole and the Levee District worked with the citizens of Lafourche Parish and the State of Louisiana to help invest in better hurricane-protection projects for our community. Despite the headwinds of cease-and-desist letters, legal threats, and government red tape, they succeeded. They knew that if they could get the Larose to Golden Meadow system elevated, lives, homes, businesses, and communities could be spared from future storms. The levees held, and their effort saved a lot of lives and prevented severe destruction.”
It’s certainly affirming to learn that despite experiencing some of the toughest storm conditions South Louisiana has seen in some time, that our vital levee systems are maintaining the peace by doing what they’re built to do: protect and withhold.
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