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Resident Talks About Hurricane Barry Making Landfall In Louisiana


People in a large part of Louisiana are doing what they've done many times before, riding out a powerful storm. Barry is now a hurricane as it moves into the south-central part of the state. The ground has been saturated by heavy rains. There's real fear of storm surges and flooding. More than 50,000 people are currently without power.

David Hanagriff is president of St. Mary Parish. The storm's on track to make landfall there. Mr. President, thanks so much for being with us.

DAVID HANAGRIFF: Yes. My welcome - my pleasure, please.

SIMON: What's it like there now for you, sir?

HANAGRIFF: Well, right now, throughout the night, you know, we hadn't had a lot of rainfall. We've had sporadic rainfall on and off throughout the night. The wind is definitely picking up now. It took a little bit of a west - movement to the west, which is - actually makes it worse for St. Mary Parish. It puts the entire parish on the bad side of the storm. So we're starting to see the wind gusts pick up pretty good right now. And, of course, the strange thing about the storm is that most of the moisture is on the back-end of it, and we have yet to see the worst yet. So that's what we're bracing for right now.

SIMON: I gather the mayor of Morgan City, which is in St. Mary Parish, said that he expects to have the city shuttered down by noon. What does shuttered down mean these days?

HANAGRIFF: Basically, tie everything up - all the loose ends as far as items that can blow around and get out - blow in the wind. Also, pumping down and keeping the pumps running and making sure we have the capacity and reservoir to handle the rain, or any rain that might come. So that's what we're prepping for. That's what we've been prepping for the last several days.

SIMON: What have you been hearing from emergency workers and your citizens there?

HANAGRIFF: Well, right now - our biggest problem right now are power outages throughout. We - of course, we have issues with power lines and trees and things like that happening. So that's our biggest problem right now, as far as dealing with and prepping for the water to come in. Again, our biggest thing right now, too, is we had a curfew earlier in the day, but the curfew's off. But...

SIMON: Yeah.

HANAGRIFF: ...We're telling our residents, just stay home. Stay inside. The worst is yet to come.

SIMON: So I guess I finally understand the phrase the lull before the storm. Is this it?

HANAGRIFF: Absolutely. And this storm is unique in so many ways - the origin of how it developed coming off of the mainland to where, right now, it's so strange and unusual that the top half is dry. The bottom half has all the moisture. And even the circulation - the eye has not circulated. It's just a very awkward storm.

SIMON: President Hanagriff, do you think based on - obviously, we remember Hurricane Katrina and other storms that have struck over the past few years - people listen to evacuation orders more, they take preparation more seriously, they've learned from their experience?

HANAGRIFF: They do, and especially on the coastal parishes like St. Mary Parish. We've been through this numerous times. And the problem right now is it's probably been about, you know, eight to 10 years since we had our last hurricane, which people sometimes get into a lull. They get complacent. But, of course, last year, looking at Harvey and then at these recent hurricanes in other places, people know. And our people in St. Mary Parish - they understand. They take precautions. And we've done this so many times.

SIMON: May I ask where you are now?

HANAGRIFF: I am currently right now in Franklin at the courthouse. I stayed here last night. And we're monitoring, getting ready for another conference call shortly to get more updates on what's going on.

SIMON: Are you going to leave or stay?

HANAGRIFF: Oh, no. I'm staying. Absolutely. My family is in another location. But they're high and dry where they're at. And we're going to ride this out.

SIMON: All right. Well, David Hanagriff is the president of St. Mary Parish. Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. President. And good luck to you this weekend.

HANAGRIFF: Yes, sir. Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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