Road Block | Wild weather

Published 10:25 pm Saturday, August 11, 2012

Repeated and sometimes severe storms have kept the Bogalusa Public Works Department jumping all week long and sent officers at the police station running for cover Tuesday night.

While the weather has dropped rain throughout Washington Parish since late last week, the brunt of the severe storms have been generally contained to the eastern side, said Tommy Thiebaud, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

“It’s been kind of hit and miss,” he said Friday. “Several days I looked at radar hoping for rain at my house and it went all around me.”

Thiebaud said his office had not received reports of any real damage, but that he’d heard of localized flooding in Bogalusa and that lightning had struck the police station in that city.

Police Chief Joe Culpepper said the strike hit on Tuesday night and did some damage to the police station, the jail and the city shop out back.

“My dispatcher had smoke coming out of her ears,” he said. “She hurt her neck. We got her checked and treated, and she went back to work.”

Culpepper said he believed Shauna Henke’s injury was more due to her involuntary reaction to try to get away from the lightning strike than from the strike itself.

He said he was able to get the BPD computers back up that night, but that connection to the Internet was not possible until the following day due to a suspected problem with the telephone lines that also affected the emergency 911 line.

Calls to the 911 line automatically transfer to the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office under such circumstances, so there was no lapse in coverage, Culpepper said.

James Hall, Bogalusa’s Public Works Director, said his crews have been busy all over the city.

On Thursday alone, a tree that went down across Mississippi Avenue at Orleans Street took out electricity to the street light and pulled the cable and telephone lines out of the pole; another tree hit the Pioneer Museum in Cassidy Park; a third went down in the 1400 block of Avenue I; and “several big limbs were down around town.”

The same storm caused about 500 homes and businesses in the vicinity of City Hall to lose electricity for two or three hours, Hall said.

On Friday, as dark skies and a 60 percent chance of more storms kept him on the alert, Hall asked the public to watch out for trees in the street, high water and other potential dangers.

“There’s more weather on the way,” he said. “We will stand by, but we ask people to pay attention. You might come up on a tree and we might not know it’s down yet.”

Some of the recent storms have dropped a lot of water in a short period of time, and street flooding might also be an issue, Hall said. Robert Ladner, who provides reports to TV weatherman Bob Breck, said that when the weather started on Monday evening Bogalusa got 3.10 inches in one hour, he said.

“Whatever ditch you have can’t handle that,” Hall said.