Ourso relieved for Iberville, sad for other parishes after Ida
Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso needed only two words to pinpoint what helped Iberville Parish dodge the bullet from Hurricane Ida’s wrath.
“We prayed,” he said. “We asked the good Lord to save Iberville from the trajectory of what was coming.”
In two weeks since the storm battered the Louisiana Gulf Coast and brought hardships that linger for many areas, the 11th hour shift in direction made the difference for Iberville and other parishes north and west of Ida’s change in path.
At the same time, he said it pains him to see the hardships endured in parishes such as Lafourche, Terrebonne, Plaquemines, Assumption, Ascension and Livingston, among others.
“Make no mistake about it: I don’t want anyone to think I’m putting misery on someone else,” Ourso said. “I have all the sympathy in the world for the people in other parishes.”
It came down to the combination of prayer and preparation before the storm.
He and other officials throughout the parish heeded the warnings that loomed in the days leading to Ida’s landfall.
In the process, he said it came down to precautions on in all areas before the Ida barreled down on the Gulf Coast on the evening of Aug. 29.
“We were as ready as ready could be with the information we got from GOHSEP (Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness) and the storm was moving quite fast over the coast and was supposed to go over the west.”
Ourso said he rode the storm out on the Eastbank, where St. Gabriel felt some of the storm’s brunt. Public Works Director Mark Migliacio worked the Westbank, where White Castle took a significant hit from Ida.
“All we can do is prepare,” Ourso said. “We had three shelters open, we prepared, we had sandbags, called for a voluntary evacuation when I thought it was coming up through Morgan City. When the hurricane comes, you watch it and buckle down.”
Power outages and fallen trees were the worst parts of Ida’s wrath on Iberville. Crews cleared the roadways within a day or two to get emergency vehicles through the area.
But power outages persisted for up to a week in the St. Gabriel area, while areas including White Castle, Bayou Goula, Dorseyville and aeras along La. 69 remained without lights for up to nine days.
Iberville did not qualify for the major disaster declaration, but the parish entered a contract with Alabama-based Disaster Recovery Services to handle all the debris removal. The City of St. Gabriel piggybacked with Iberville Parish Government to clean up debris along the Eastbank.
The parish fared far better than one of Ourso’s favorite Louisiana destinations.
“I went down to Grand Isle on the Saturday after the hurricane, and I’ve bene going down 40 years, but as I got to Napoleonville and the farther I went south, the worse it got,” he said. “There’s a lot of havoc down there, a lot of people suffering.
“I put a lot of that into perspective on my return trip back home in terms of how Iberville was really blessed with what we didn’t get,” Ourso said. “We were blessed and fortunate.”