Central Prepared for Hurricane Gustav

Central Prepared for Hurricane Gustav

In September 2008, Hurricane Gustav swept through the new City of Central with winds over 90 miles per hour, and damage was widespread.  Central received 10 times more damage than during Hurricane Katrina. It was Central’s most destructive hurricane in living memory. But the community pulled together, and in many ways, it was Central’s finest hour since becoming a city.

Central Fire Chief Bill Porche said large trees fell on at least 40 homes in Central. Trees, power lines, and debris were down everywhere.  But no one in Central was killed and no one suffered major injuries.  By Wednesday, most residents were busy cleaning up and making repairs. Few businesses were open, and there were long lines for gasoline at the few gas stations, which were open. Overall, the Central community appeared well prepared for the emergency.

Central Mayor Mac Watts, Central Fire Chief Bill Porche, and other leading officials had met many times to plan for another hurricane or other disaster. Central recently received a grant to help create an Emergency Operations Center at the Central Fire Station on Sullivan.

At  7 p.m. Sunday, Watts and Porche presided over a final planning meeting before the hurri-cane, which was expected to hit early Monday morning. All Central city officials and firefighters were on duty beginning at 5 a.m. Monday. They served throughout the storm, and many didn’t sleep for 36 to 48 hours.

An average of 50 calls a day poured into the fire station Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Most were for trees on houses.

During the height of the storm, the fire department had to limit its response to life-threatening circumstances.  At other times, it responded to all calls.  One unusual call was for a mother who was giving birth at 3:30 p.m. — when the storm was most intense. As it turned out, the baby was born naturally, and both mother and child were doing fine.  There were no major injuries reported in Central during the storm.

Wednesday night Central Mayor Mac Watts said the Central Fire Department and Central’s Department of Public Works did a great job.  “They had all major roads open almost immediately. They were out working, even during the storm. It’s unbelievable how well they did,” Watts said.

The mayor said there were many heroes, including Zoar Baptist Church’s Disaster Relief Team and Central Drug Store, which opened to customers, even though it was without power. The mayor flew over the Baton Rouge area with Mayor-President Kip Holden and Zachary Mayor Henry Martinez. From the sky, Watts said the devastation was striking, especially the large number of trees down and the Comite River flooding out of its banks. Considering the power of the storm, Watts said he was relieved that Central did not receive greater damage than it did.

The mayor asked that residents pile their debris by the side of the road. A contract was bid out for debris collection, and pickup will begin soon.

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