La. Park Cabins Remain Closed for 2013

April 23, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Cabins at Fontainebleau State Park will remain closed this season. The cabins, situated on piers over Lake Pontchartrain (shown in blue), are located in the top left-hand corner of this map

The rental cabins at Fontainebleau State Park near Mandeville, La., that were heavily damaged during Hurricane Isaac last year will likely remain closed until the end of 2014.

Jacques Berry, communication director for Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, estimates it will cost about $1.8 million to repair the 12 cabins that are situated on piers over Lake Pontchartrain along the 2,800-acre park’s southern border, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

While there is no timetable for reopening the cabins, Berry said “since we haven’t received any of the money from FEMA, we’re saying that we hope to reopen the cabins in late 2014.”

Isaac caused extensive damage to Fontainebleau, Louisiana’s most-visited state park, drawing more than 300,000 people per year. The storm, which hit in late August, flooded the visitor’s center, tore up the park’s sandy beach and pushed water into the vacation cabins.

Most of the park reopened last fall, but the cabins were heavily damaged and remained shuttered.

“Every cabin has a variety of repair or replacement work required – HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), docks, mold, cabin fixtures, roofs … you name it,” Berry said in an email sent Monday. The popular cabins are built on piers seven feet above the lake’s waters.

The cabins provide overnight accommodations for as many as eight people each and include a full kitchen, living room, dining area, bathroom and porch over the lake. The cabins were under construction when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, but did not sustain serious damage.

State officials estimated that Isaac caused around $3 million in damage to Fontainebleau and over $7 million in damage to state parks in Louisiana.

The park was created on the site of a former sugar plantation built in 1829 by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville, who founded the city of Mandeville. It was built during the Great Depression by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal initiative focusing on preserving the nation’s natural resources. The park opened in 1942, with much of the work of the CCC — trails, buildings and picnic areas — still in place today.



Flooded Louisiana State Parks to Reopen

October 12, 2012 by · Comments Off on Flooded Louisiana State Parks to Reopen 

Fontainebleau and Fairview-Riverside state parks are beginning to show signs of life after Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana.

The small but dedicated staff at historic Fairview-Riverside, between Mandeville and Madisonville, wasted no time after Isaac. About the time the water levels receded after the storm, they went to work, WDSU-TV, New Orleans, reported.

“As opposed to waiting for everybody to get here and help us out, we decided to get in here and do it ourselves,” said Interim Park Manager Marshall Pierre. “As you can see, we’re making some progress right now.”

Fairview’s historic Otis House sustained minor damage; it’s already repaired and ready for visitors.

However, critical work continues on the front campground. Staff members said it will need a complete overhaul of the electrical system, transformers and underground cable. The project, scheduled before the storm hit, is the last major hurdle.

Pierre said the main problem is having electricity to all the items. Once staff gets that up and running, he said, they can open the gates and let in visitors.

At Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, staff members are getting ready to take the “park closed” sign down, at least for a portion of the park, on Monday.

Dwayne Borel, Fontainebleau State Park manager, said they intend to open the campground, the day-use area, group camp 3 and the lodge on Oct. 15.

Fontainebleau still needs work, however. Twelve cabins on the lake were damaged. Sewerage and electrical systems also took a hit.

Borel said their budget will determine when the park opens again.

$7.4 Million: Isaac Damage to La. State Parks

September 17, 2012 by · Comments Off on $7.4 Million: Isaac Damage to La. State Parks 

Hurricane Isaac did an estimated $7.4 million damage to state parks in south Louisiana and forced many into months-long closures, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Friday (Sept. 14).

Dardenne, who serves at the secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the agency that oversees state parks, said Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville and Fairview-Riverside State Park in Madisonville bore much of Isaac’s wrath, the Times-Picayune reported.

Dardenne said that the $7.4 million estimate of damages is based on preliminary surveys and are still “rough estimates.” He said that his office will report the damage to state officials, who are expected to receive reimbursement for damages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It could have been worse,” Dardenne said.

The two St. Tammany parks, he said, accounted for roughly $3.2 million of the $7.4 million in damages; $2.5 million at Fontainebleau and $687,000 at Fairview-Riverside.

Aside from certain spots at Fairview-Riverside, Dardenne said, the park is “currently without power. Restrooms are unusable due to the lack or power, preventing the removal of sewage.”

Dardenne said he does not expect the park to reopen until late this year.

At Fontainebleau State Park, which in recent years has undergone millions of dollars of renovations and construction of new camping and cabin facilities, things were worse, Dardenne said.

Regarded as a crown jewel of the park system, Dardenne said about a dozen cabins that were built seven feet above Lake Pontchartrain all had at least two inches of water in them and some had destroyed decks.

“Park officials hope to expect to reopen the park by the end of the year,” Dardenne said. “Cabins, however, will remain closed for at least six months.”

The campgrounds at Grand Isle State Park were scheduled to reopen Friday, but camping on the beach is banned until further notice, Dardenne said. He estimated damages there to be about $970,000. He said the state is also testing for mold at the fee station entrance to the park.

Dardenne said Bogue Chitto State Park near Franklinton sustained $1.64 million in damages. He said the upper campgrounds are open but lower campgrounds need work and may not be open for three weeks.

Dardenne said other parks and historic sites also took a beating such as:

  • Bayou Segnette State Park near Westwego, which sustained about $190,000 in damages. Dardenne said the park is “riddled with downed trees” and the ground is “extremely soft. Much of the grass was killed by standing water, and the site is covered with mud and silt deposits.” The campgrounds should be open in three weeks, he said.
  • Fort Pike State Historic Site in eastern New Orleans sustained an estimated $660,000 in damages, he said, including an accumulation of “three to four feet of marsh grass and mud … deposited inside the fort, and the manager’s residence has been destroyed,” he said. “There is no current projection for reopening the site.”
  • St. Bernard State Park near Braithwaite, sustained about $90,000 in damages, he said. Campgrounds are now open and staff is working on cleaning the day use areas for an opening “soon,” he said.
  • Tickfaw State Park near Springfield sustained $612,000 in damages, but park officials hope to reopen it Thursday, though not the canoe trails.

Drought Monitor: Isaac Eased Drought

September 6, 2012 by · Comments Off on Drought Monitor: Isaac Eased Drought 


The Northeast: Some scattered rain events through the region did allow for some improvements to the D0 in southern New York.  The recent wet pattern has allowed for most all the impacts in Massachusetts to subside, with only lingering low streamflows in the area.  In response to the improvements, D1 was removed and the impact label was changed to “L” to account for the long-term issues.  Some late rains in the region may provide enough moisture to show future improvements.

Mid-Atlantic: As with the areas to the north, the Mid-Atlantic states have been in an overall wet pattern over the last few weeks, which has helped to ease drought concerns.  Improvements were made in Virginia to the D1 while the D0 areas in Virginia and Maryland were reduced.  The impact label was changed to an “L” because the main impacts to the region are long-term and most of the short-term issues have improved.

Southeast:  Some of the outer rain bands from Hurricane Isaac brought additional rains to the region.  Accounting for the most recent rains led to improvements in D3/D2 along the Georgia and South Carolina borders.  The D0 conditions along the South Carolina coast were also improved while some D0 in North Carolina was also improved.  In Alabama, minimal improvements were made to the D0/D1 along the northwest and southeast drought areas. Groundwater and soil moisture in this area have had a very slow response to recent rains, so further improvements were not warranted.

South: Hurricane Isaac made landfall and pushed inland to the north/northwest as a very slow-moving subtropical storm system.  With the slow-moving nature and direction of movement associated with Isaac, many areas in Louisiana, Arkansas and the Midwest recorded precipitation that approached 10+ inches in places.  Many areas in Arkansas and Louisiana saw a 2 class improvement in their U.S. Drought Monitor status this week in response to the rains.  Most all the short-term indicators were improved and the area was labeled with an “L” for the lingering long-term issues.  The full impact of this event will take time to analyze and consider.

Midwest: With the remnants of Isaac moving slowly through the region, many areas of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana recorded rainfall in the 2-6 inch range.  Some areas received more and some less, so the improvements made in these areas were based upon the totals (and in Illinois, totals over the last several weeks).  Many areas of Missouri and Illinois did see a 2-category improvement this week and widespread areas of 1-category improvements were evident in Indiana and Ohio.  The improvements were based upon how well soil moisture levels responded throughout the area that received the most rain and also the favorable response of the river and streamflows, which were running at near record lows.  The response to the storm is interesting in that for some areas, a very tight gradient of precipitation has been observed which led to rapid changes in drought status over a short distance.

The region did see some degradation this week as portions of northwest Iowa did go into D4 status and D3 was extended into Minnesota out of Iowa.  Areas of central Minnesota that were very wet a few months ago have dried out, and D0 was introduced around the Twin Cities this week.  Most of central and northern Wisconsin saw full category degradation this week as the last several months have been dry and hot in this area.

The Plains: The region continues to miss out on the rains, and the return of temperatures in the 100 degree Fahrenheit range allowed for further degradation this week.  In North Dakota, D1 was expanded into the northwest and southeast while D2 expanded in the east.  For South Dakota, a large expansion of D3 over most of the central portion of the state took place while D4 was introduced into the southeast portion of the state.  The northwest portion of the state had D2 expansion while the northeast had D1 expansion there as well.  In Nebraska, the D4 areas expanded to include most of the western half of the state and most of the northeast.  Kanas saw D4 expand in the northwest part of the state while the eastern portion of the state saw great improvements in those areas that received rainfall associated with Isaac.  Oklahoma saw D4 expand in the panhandle while Texas had general degradation in the south and panhandle regions.

The West: A mix of improvements and degradation this week.  In Wyoming, a large degradation as D3/D4 pushed west out of Nebraska and into the eastern portions of the state.  Western Wyoming saw D2/D3 conditions expand as well as D2 in the north central.  For Montana, much of the southern portions of the state were put into D2 this week while D1 pushed into the north central portions of Montana. A new area of D3 was introduced in central Montana while D3 also was extended out of Wyoming into the southern portion of the state. In Colorado, some recent rains have allowed for D3 to be improved in the central portion of the state while in the 4 Corners region, D3 was also improved.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: On the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the D1/D2 conditions were expanded. Local FSA reports note that pastures continue to fail in this region as the lower elevation rainfall for August was lacking.  No changes for Alaska or Puerto Rico this week.

Looking Ahead: Over the next five days (Sept. 4-9) the Plains and Midwest states are forecasted to have temperatures below normal, which may extend into the southeastern United States.  Temperatures look to be 3-6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the Pacific Northwest and into the Great Basin.  A fairly active weather pattern looks to bring a widespread chance of rain over the central Plains through the Midwest and up into New England.  The greatest precipitation amounts are expected over the area from Kansas and Oklahoma to western Kentucky, where more than 1.50 inches of rain has been projected.

The CPC 6-10 day forecast (Sept. 10-14) has temperatures below normal over the Southeast and west coast as well as for much of western Alaska.  Temperatures can be expected to be above normal for much of the central and northern Plains, the Great Basin and Rocky Mountains.  Much of the country should expect below-normal precipitation, with the desert southwest and portions of Florida being the only areas showing above-normal chances of precipitation.



Isaac ‘Took Out’ Seven Louisiana State Parks

September 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on Isaac ‘Took Out’ Seven Louisiana State Parks 

Seven state parks in Louisiana that were hit by the most damaging winds and water of Tropical Storm Isaac will remain closed “indefinitely,” says Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

“The parks in the southeast are of great concern,” he said, because they are expected to have significant damage from wind and water. Crews are to assess the damage at the ones they can get into them, he said.

Quoting Dardenne, The Advertiser, Lafayette, La., reported that Grand Isle State Park is under two feet of water, so there’s no way to tell when it might reopen. The one highway leading to Grand Isle is flooded, so crews can’t get there to inspect it.

He said he’s concerned most about Fairview Riverside near Madisonville and Fontainebleau near Mandeville because of reports of high water. Both parks have cabins and other facilities that likely flooded.

“We hope to get some analysis” of the damage within 24 hours, he said Thursday, but he’s afraid “the damage is going to be worse than it was from Katrina. The guys down there say the water is worse than Katrina.”

Other state parks in that region that are closed are Bogue Chitto near Franklinton, Tickfaw near Springfield, St. Bernard in St. Bernard Parish and Bayou Segnette near Westwego Dardenne said he’s also concerned about Chicot State Park near Ville Platte.

The lieutenant governor came to the Governor’s Office of Homeland and Security after checking out the State Library in downtown Baton Rouge.

“There was a little water on the fifth floor” where the Louisiana Collection is housed, he said. “It didn’t look like a major leak and it’s been secured.”

The air conditioning system is on and humidifiers are taking moisture out of the air.

Parks in the northern part of the state and historic areas are fine, Dardenne said, and most should reopen Friday. Museums across the state, including the Presbyter and Cabildo, were not damaged.

The Forts Buhlow and Randolph historic sites in Pineville, the Marksville Historic Site, the Longfellow-Evangeline Historic Site in St. Martinville and the Plaquemine Lock Historic Site are expected to be open today. Rosedown and the Audubon Historic Site near St. Francisville should open Saturday.


Isaac’s Hardest Blow May Be Gasoline Prices

August 30, 2012 by · Comments Off on Isaac’s Hardest Blow May Be Gasoline Prices 

Gas prices spike thanks to Hurricane Isaac.

Drivers are being hit with the biggest one-day jump in gasoline prices in 18 months just as the last heavy driving weekend of the summer approaches, The Associated Press reported.

As Hurricane Isaac swamps the nation’s oil and gas hub along the Gulf Coast, it’s delivering sharply higher pump prices to storm-battered residents of Louisiana and Mississippi — and also to unsuspecting drivers up north in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The national average price of a gallon of gas jumped almost five cents Wednesday (Aug. 29) to $3.80, the highest ever for this date. Prices are expected to continue to climb through Labor Day weekend, the end of the summer driving season.

“The national average will keep ticking higher, and it’s going to be noticeable,” says Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at

The wide storm shut down several refineries along the Gulf Coast and others are operating at reduced rates. In all, about 1.3 million barrels per day of refining capacity is affected. So, it’s no surprise that drivers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida saw gas prices rise by a dime or more in the past week.

But some states in the Midwest are suffering even more dramatic spikes. Ohio prices jumped 14 cents, Indiana prices soared 13 cents and Illinois prices jumped 10 cents on Wednesday alone according to the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). Days before Isaac was expected to douse those states with rain, the storm forced the shutdown of a pipeline that serves a number of Midwest refineries.

As Isaac fades away, the summer driving season ends, and refiners switch to cheaper winter blends of gasoline, stations owners should start dropping prices. “There is some very good relief in sight,” DeHaan says.

When Katrina hit in 2005, the national average for gas spiked 40 cents in six days and topped $3 per gallon for the first time. Isaac likely won’t have the same result, though its full impact on the refineries is yet to be determined.

The refineries are not expected to suffer long term damage. But refiners decided to shut down or run at reduced rates to protect their operations.

These facilities consume enormous amounts of electric power and generate steam to cook crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil. If a refinery loses power suddenly, operators can’t properly clear the partially cooked oil out of pipes, and re-starting the refinery can take several days or even weeks.

In advance of Isaac, refineries instead conducted what is known as an orderly shutdown, so they can re-start as soon as the power supply is assured again. The Gulf refineries will likely stay off line for about three days.

Isaac cut into the amount of gasoline being produced, and raised fears that supplies could fall dangerously low if the storm proved worse than expected. When supplies drop or are threatened, wholesale prices rise. Then distributors and station owners have to pay more to fill up their station’s tanks. They then raise their prices based on how much they paid for their current inventory, how much they think they will have to pay for their next shipment, and, how much their competitors are charging.

Prices spiked particularly high in the Midwest because Isaac forced Shell to close a pipeline that delivers crude from St. James, La., to refineries in the region.

Gasoline prices are particularly vulnerable to spikes around this time of year. Refiners keep a low supply of more expensive blends as driving season ends, knowing they’ll soon be able to make cheaper winter blends of gasoline.

“We are really working with a just-in-time delivery system,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the OPIS.

Pump prices were on the rise even before Isaac blew in. The average price for gas rose about 40 cents from July 1 to mid-August because of higher oil prices and refinery problems in the Midwest and West Coast. At $3.80 per gallon, the national average is the highest since May 1 and well above the previous record for Aug. 29, $3.67 in 2008.

Wednesday’s jump of a nickel was the 10th biggest one-day jump on record, according to OPIS, and the biggest since the average price rose 6 cents on Feb. 15, 2011, when turmoil in Libya was rising.

But prices could quickly come down if refineries can soon get up and running. Crude oil prices fell Wednesday and wholesale gasoline prices fell the past two days, suggesting the spike in retail gasoline prices could be short-lived. Americans will soon do less driving and the switch to cheaper blends will be well underway by mid-September.


Ark. Campgrounds Brace for Isaac Soaking

August 30, 2012 by · Comments Off on Ark. Campgrounds Brace for Isaac Soaking 

Tropical Storm Isaac slowed down and weakened Wednesday (Aug. 29) after sidestepping New Orleans but still posed a potential flooding threat to Arkansas, where emergency officials were on alert to respond to any problems and some people were canceling travel plans for the upcoming holiday weekend, the Associated Press reported.

The track of the newly downgraded storm shifted west Wednesday, with the eye projected to reach northwest Arkansas by 1 p.m. Friday. It had been forecast to head through the middle of the state, and the track could change again. Downpours of up to 20 inches were possible.

Isaac came ashore late Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane, with 80 mph winds near the mouth of the Mississippi River. It drove a wall of water nearly 11 feet high inland.

With the Labor Day weekend approaching, the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department had plenty of cancellations at state campgrounds and lodges, many from Louisiana residents who decided to stay home because of the storm, agency spokeswoman Kat Robinson said.

At Maumelle Park campground on the Arkansas River just west of Little Rock, Tom Anderson, 80, was packing up his RV, but only so he could move to another campground in the area. He worked under a blue sky on a mild, breezy day with a few white clouds in the sky.

“I’m not concerned about (the storm). Weather’s weather,” Anderson said. “If the water’s coming up, they get you out of here.”

That hasn’t always been the case.

More than two years ago, a flash flood killed 20 people, including seven children, at a southwest Arkansas campground. The U.S. Forest Service has acknowledged it had no emergency warning system in place at the Albert Pike Campground. The flood struck in the middle of the night during an intense rainstorm, sweeping away vehicles, RVs and camper trailers that were at the campground along the Little Missouri River.

Camping is no longer allowed at the site and the Forest Service has changed its policies on warning campers in national forests.

Robinson said the storm could be clear of Arkansas in time for people to camp Saturday night. She suggested hotels should start offering special deals or coupons.

“It may be a beautiful weekend,” Robinson said.

Though Isaac’s tendrils were still far off Wednesday, the National Weather Service in North Little Rock issued a flash flood watch for most of Arkansas.

The weather service has cautioned that drought has weakened a lot of trees and Isaac’s rain and wind, expected to be between 20 mph and 30 mph, could knock down trees and power lines. Also, tropical storms can generate supercell thunderstorms that can spin off tornadoes with little warning.

Gov. Mike Beebe said electric companies have additional workers coming into the state in case of damage to power lines. He also said emergency personnel around the state are on alert.

Beebe said he has talked with federal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has offered assistance to the state if it’s needed.

“The bigger issue is what about our own people and what damages are going to occur, either in a temporary interruption of electric service or the need for flash flooding relief or flooding relief in terms of evacuation of our own people in low-lying areas, and certainly the economic issues surrounding, particularly what it could do with the row crops in eastern Arkansas,” Beebe said.

At a campground in North Little Rock, New Orleans resident Scott Cruise, a nurse anesthetist from New Orleans, was traveling with his father, Grover Cruise, of Laurel, Miss.

They left home day earlier than planned to miss evacuation traffic and any rough weather. They were stopping at the campground while on their way to a bluegrass festival in Eminence, Mo. Scott Cruise plays in the band Louisiana Grass.




Isaac Evacuees Seek Shelter in Campgrounds

August 29, 2012 by · Comments Off on Isaac Evacuees Seek Shelter in Campgrounds 

As Hurricane Isaac lashes New Orleans this morning, campgrounds in Louisiana not in immediate danger are housing some storm evacuees.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the storm’s center early today (Aug. 29) was about 50 miles south-southwest of New Orleans and moving slowly. The storm came ashore in southern Louisiana on Tuesday.

Some campgrounds around Lafayette are playing host to residents from Southeast Louisiana fleeing from Isaac’s path, The Advertiser, Monroe, La., reported.

Visitors started arriving Monday at the KOA Campground in Lafayette according to Kristan Lorraine, the site’s office manager.

“We are getting a few. We’re not packed,” she said. “It’s not as full as (Hurricane) Katrina.”

Most of the visitors are coming from Laplace, Metairie and south of New Orleans, Lorraine said.

She was still receiving inquiries Tuesday morning. Some of her guests were undecided what to do.

“Some are choosing to sit around here till noon to decide if they’re going to go further west,” Lorraine said.

At Bayou Wilderness Resort in Carencro, people from the New Orleans area have been calling and coming in since Sunday, said Ramona Benton, the campground’s office manager. Bayou Wilderness still had space available as of Tuesday.

Officials at the Kisatchie National Forest in the central part of the state want people to know that its campgrounds are not hurricane evacuation sites, The Associated Press reported.

Some people who left south Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Isaac showed up at the forest’s Winn Ranger District, hoping to camp out, and were sent to the state shelter in Alexandria, forest spokeswoman Amy Robertson said Tuesday.

All of the Winn District’s recreation areas are closed until further notice.

“When the weather gets to be bad, we can’t let people stay because then it becomes an issue of ‘Would they be trapped?'” she said.

The forest includes five separate districts with land in seven central and north parishes — Rapides, Grant, Natchitoches, Vernon, Winn, Webster and Claiborne.

Meanwhile, Louisiana State Parks aren’t taking Hurricane Isaac evacuees yet, but they remain an option if needed.

Johnson, deputy secretary for Louisiana State Parks, said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has offered the facilities as potential havens from the storm, the Monroe Star-News reported.

“It’s certainly been discussed and is on the table, but there hasn’t yet been the demand for it,” Johnson said. “Should the need arise, the parks will absolutely be made available.”

The state first began offering its parks free for evacuees with Hurricane Katrina in 2007 and have since opened them for other storms.

“Katrina set the precedent,” Johnson said. “We used all of our cabins and group camps for an extended period of time during that hurricane.

“But so far we haven’t had massive evacuation notices for Isaac. There are a lot of midweek vacancies now, so we certainly would have some room if it’s needed.”

Johnson said 10 parks and historic sites in southern Louisiana have already been closed and more could be closed depending on the severity of the storm.

“We’re watching the path and the intensity,” he said. “ As it goes north we’ll determine if we need to close any more of the parks.”