NEW ORLEANS — With a dangerous Hurricane Harvey churning the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, trucks carrying cattle to higher ground lined a road in southwest Louisiana where a mandatory evacuation was ordered. Residents in flood-weary New Orleans filled sandbags and hoped they wouldn’t be needed.
Sections of New Orleans were still recovering from flash floods on Aug. 5 that caught many by surprise and revealed problems with the city’s elaborate drainage system, including inoperative pumps. The revelations led to firings and the abrupt retirement of an agency head.
“That’s just sheer severe neglect for many years, so I’m kind of glad a few people got the boot they needed to,” resident Steve Neighoff said as he hefted sandbags into his car. “I’m OK with the mayor. I don’t think he can do everything. He’s not a technician, and he has to believe what people tell him. So do we, unfortunately.”
Harvey was headed for a Texas landfall but rain bands moved over Louisiana Friday and officials there also braced for possible days of rain. Officials in Cameron Parish, on the coast at the Texas state line, ordered an evacuation south of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Livestock, as well as people, were a big concern.
“This morning we had trucks lined up on the side of the highway, all with cow trailers and horse trailers,” said Lori Boullion, a worker at Canik’s Feed & Grocery in the Creole community.
Chief Deputy Chris Savoie of the Cameron Parish Sheriff’s Office said roughly 3,500 residents were covered by the evacuation order. Later Friday, a voluntary evacuation was ordered for part of neighboring Vermilion Parish, affecting an estimated 10,000 people.
Forecasters said southwest Louisiana could get 15 inches to 20 inches of rain over the next several days, along with possible storm surges of more than a foot. They raised fears that the storm could stall and eventually meander eastward after landfall, inundating Louisiana with rain well into next week.
Forecasts called for anywhere from four to 10 inches of rain in and around New Orleans over the next week.
Improvements to the drainage system are ongoing, but officials say the system still isn’t functioning at full capacity.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who issued an emergency declaration to prepare for the storm Thursday, traveled to southwest Louisiana on Friday. He met with emergency response officials in Calcasieu Parish, north of Cameron Parish.
Edwards, during a news briefing in Lake Charles, said he had spoken to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday and offered “any additional resources they need, in terms of personnel or assets.”
Edwards said he also had a conversation Thursday evening with President Donald Trump, “who called and checked on things in Louisiana.”
“He wanted to make sure that any requests for assistance that we needed from the federal government were being met, and obviously that is the case,” Edwards said.
Edwards said the “greatest risk” for Louisiana is “complacency” given the hurricane’s uncertain path after landfall in Texas.
Kunzelman reported from Baton Rouge. AP Television News reporter Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans contributed to this report.