WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ WBRZ On Your Side On Your Side en-us Copyright 2021, WBRZ. All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 22 Jun 2021 HH:06:ss GMT Synapse CMS 10 WBRZ https://www.wbrz.com/ 144 25 More people adopting 'do it yourself' mentality as neighbors help clear drainage ditch https://www.wbrz.com/news/more-people-adopting-do-it-yourself-mentality-as-neighbors-help-clear-drainage-ditch/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/more-people-adopting-do-it-yourself-mentality-as-neighbors-help-clear-drainage-ditch/ On Your Side Fri, 18 Jun 2021 5:34:40 PM Brittany Weiss More people adopting 'do it yourself' mentality as neighbors help clear drainage ditch

BATON ROUGE - While the threat of rain may be easing for the Baton Rouge area, some neighborhoods are still on edge, especially those who flooded last month.

One neighborhood is not waiting around for someone else to get the job done. A group of neighbors in Old Jefferson got together this morning to do it themselves.

A ditch behind Proxie Drive has been a problem spot to people living nearby for years. Neighbors assembled Friday morning, bringing their tools and renting a tractor to get the job done.

"I appreciate that the city is busy, but we've reported it," Tom Patterson said.

Neighbors clearing the problem spot Friday have reported the issue since 2016. They say the city came to spray the vegetation with herbicide, but overgrowth and downed trees have piled up over the years.

"A lot of the damage was done with downed trees from Hurricane Andrew, which was 29 years ago and they never got cleaned up," Yvette Cormier said.

Homes along Proxie Drive flooded last month, and some homeowners placed sandbags around their front doors. Homeowners had another issue with water this month on June 6.

"The other day, with that hard rain, the water was just flowing from the woods down these people's driveway and into the street," Yvette said. "Even when the rain had stopped for two hours it was still pouring out."

The hope is the work being done will help with drainage problems the neighborhood is experiencing. The ditch connects to Claycut Bayou.

"We're trying to do anything to help these folks from flooding or even the fear of flooding," Scott Cormier said.

The city-parish says this week drainage crews continue to work service requests, and maintenance crews help with ditch digging. They are also inspecting all 6,418 city-parish streets ahead of the rain.

Permalink| Comments

Drainage issue identified months ago, neighborhood flooded in May https://www.wbrz.com/news/drainage-issue-identified-months-ago-neighborhood-flooded-in-may/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/drainage-issue-identified-months-ago-neighborhood-flooded-in-may/ On Your Side Thu, 17 Jun 2021 5:12:50 PM Brittany Weiss Drainage issue identified months ago, neighborhood flooded in May

BATON ROUGE - People who live in neighborhoods that flooded last month are living in fear over what could happen this weekend with the threat of tropical weather, especially when they came across problem areas that have not been addressed for a long time.

Homes in Briar Place off of Jefferson Highway flooded last month. After Russell Barcelona got water in his house, he decided to walk the drainage ditches. He tells 2 On Your Side he found a problem with the drainage ditch that connects to his subdivision.

That ditch is along the new Materra Subdivision and BASIS charter school in Baton Rouge. While the ditch looks like it's been sprayed with herbicide, it's a concern for Barcelona.

"This whole street on this side flooded," he said. "People were ripping out Sheetrock, cabinets. I ripped out carpet flooring."

Barcelona has lived in Briar Place for 12 years. This was the first time he's had an issue with water in his house, but some of his neighbors have flooded before.

Barcelona and other people in the neighborhood say they have been in contact with 311 to get the drainage further inspected and cleared.

"It needs to be dredged out so every time there's a flash flood we don't have flooding," he said.

Thursday, 2 On Your Side asked the city-parish about the drainage issue. The parish says the ditch itself isn't in bad shape, but it's calling a spot where Briar Place drainage meets Materra drainage a "bad junction." The parish says that junction creates a current which backs up water and delays the flow of water.

The city-parish says it's working on a solution so the two neighborhood drainage ditches can continue to flow into one another.

However, some residents in Briar Place say this isn't anything new and the City-Parish has known about the "bad junction."

Corey Levey is the former President of Briar Place HOA and says he's been fighting with the city-parish to get something done since 2019.

Permalink| Comments

Recent flood victims share drainage concerns ahead of wet week https://www.wbrz.com/news/recent-flood-victims-share-drainage-concerns-ahead-of-wet-week/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/recent-flood-victims-share-drainage-concerns-ahead-of-wet-week/ On Your Side Tue, 15 Jun 2021 5:22:33 PM Brittany Weiss Recent flood victims share drainage concerns ahead of wet week

BATON ROUGE - Ahead of the rain this week, maintenance crews in Baton Rouge are digging out ditches and sucking debris from pipes. They're fulfilling maintenance requests through the drainage department before storms.

People say it's necessary since they're worried about flooding again after May's heavy rain that flooded hundreds of homes. This week is bringing up some traumatic memories they'd like to forget.

For the last few weeks, Amelia Chauvin has been working hard to repair her house after it flooded with four inches of water last month. While she says she might be more fortunate than others, she still can't believe it happened since her neighborhood has never flooded before.

Now with more rain in the forecast, she's worried about what's to come, if something isn't done to fix the problem.

"We've never had our catch-basins or gutter boxes cleaned out in over 10 years, and the tributary, I guess at some point when we recuperate from our loss we'll probably get together and we'll probably end up cleaning the tributaries ourselves," said Chauvin.

Ward Creek runs behind homes in her neighborhood off Drusilla Lane. She says there is debris in there from the ice storm that hasn't been cleared.

The City-Parish worked to dig out a drainage ditch on Normandy Drive Tuesday. Downtown Baton Rouge a crew vacuumed out debris from a problem spot there. Last week, it says it completed 80 drainage projects and continues to work through its maintenance requests.

Chauvin says there's much more to do.

"We already know there's a problem, let's fix it," she said. "A lot of money, a lot of heartache, a lot of tears could be avoided by just taking federal funds that we already have, let's cut through the red tape, and let's fix the problem."

Now she fears with more rain coming that the works she has already done on her house will be for nothing.

"Very, very afraid," she said. "Especially since my house is a little over 50 percent fixed. If it floods again I'll have to fix my house again which at that point I don't know what I'll do."

The City-Parish says it's focused on doing drainage maintenance this week while watching the weather. It says it will take appropriate response steps as needed.

Permalink| Comments

Wetland consultant says more needs to be done to protect city from flooding https://www.wbrz.com/news/wetland-consultant-says-more-needs-to-be-done-to-protect-city-from-flooding/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/wetland-consultant-says-more-needs-to-be-done-to-protect-city-from-flooding/ On Your Side Mon, 14 Jun 2021 5:09:16 PM Brittany Weiss Wetland consultant says more needs to be done to protect city from flooding

BATON ROUGE - Calls for building moratoriums are spreading and getting louder. Discussions are underway in several parishes in response to recent flooding.

One man is taking that discussion to the next level. Lee Patterson is a wetland consultant out of New Orleans who lives in Baton Rouge. He says there's too much building going on and not enough research devoted to each project being proposed.

"I think the time is kind of now or never," said Patterson. "There's no more time to say there's nothing more we can do about it."

When Patterson's neighbors flooded a few weeks ago he saw it as a time to speak up. He says change is needed, which is why he started a change.org petition to stop flooding in Baton Rouge.

"I don't think it's change that's going to ruin the city or cause some kind of collapse of the housing development industry, I think it's stuff that's going to benefit everybody," he said.

In the petition, Patterson says he fears developers are making money at the expense of Baton Rouge homeowners. He says they're building so fast, gobbling up wetlands, they're not taking a look at what's happening in surrounding areas. As a result, he says developers impact more wetlands than they claim.

"A lot of these areas I've worked in and I know how much water they get on them and when I see them putting up new neighborhoods, it's like, I've seen five feet of water where there are now houses so how can that not be contributing to what's going on right now?" he said.

Patterson says developments of various sizes are being permitted and it all adds up. He says it can be a reason why neighborhoods that never saw flooding before are experiencing it now. He is asking the parish better protect its natural resources instead of building quickly.

He says at the absolute minimum, the parish put new regulations on vegetative buffers around aquatic resources and hire new staff who can comment on behalf of citizens on how new developments can affect the city.

The City-Parish and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome met with Patterson last week via Zoom. The mayor heard his ideas and informed him of the multiple drainage projects in the works.

The City-Parish says that since 2016, EBR has been making changes to the Unified Development Code as it relates to floodplain management. Some changes include requiring a new development design for a 25-year storm event, an increase from a 10-year event. In 2019, the parish established requirements for the preservation of open space in residential developments. More changes are coming soon based on data from the Stormwater Master Plan.

Patterson says he plans to send the mayor more ideas this week.

Permalink| Comments

Concrete canal erodes, causes sinkhole in neighbor's yard https://www.wbrz.com/news/concrete-canal-erodes-causes-sinkhole-in-neighbor-s-yard/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/concrete-canal-erodes-causes-sinkhole-in-neighbor-s-yard/ On Your Side Fri, 11 Jun 2021 8:51:22 AM Brittany Weiss Concrete canal erodes, causes sinkhole in neighbor's yard

BATON ROUGE - A homeowner says she's been having trouble with her cable and internet for a while but had no idea it was linked to the earth in her backyard moving. It's something she's worried about for the last decade, and it finally became a big problem last month.

Mechele Evans says there's been a trouble spot in her backyard for years, but the earth finally gave way a few weeks ago.

"That happened on the 20th, I was at work and lost internet and came back to look," Evans said.

She found a large hole in the corner of her yard. It dips down into the concrete-lined drainage canal on the other side of her fence. A large section of that concrete canal has broken apart and the land has washed away under another section. It also took out a large tree. The utilities in that corner of her property have been exposed and uprooted.

"It was very surprising and a little scary," she said.

The city-parish came out when the land fell last month and put up an orange fence. Evans said she was told then by a parish representative that someone would get back to her within a few days. A couple of weeks went by and she didn't hear anything. That's when she reached out to 2 On Your Side.

Tuesday, 2 On Your Side contacted the city-parish, and someone came out to Evans' home that same day to take a look and offer a solution. Evans says this whole thing could have been avoided a long time ago.

"We actually noticed there was a problem when we purchased the house in 2010," she said. "It didn't look that serious, we figured we would report it to the city and it would get fixed. We did that within a month of buying the property."

Evans says she first reported the issue to the city-parish 10 years ago. She says she's called a few times over the years with reminders.

"They told us it would get on a list," she said.

Evans isn't sure where that list is and fears for all the other people who are also on that list waiting. She's happy things are moving a bit faster now, since that supervisor visit from the city-parish earlier this week.

"He said this was a top priority and after Entergy marked where all of the utilities were that they'd probably get started next week," Evans said.

Entergy came out Wednesday to mark the utilities, and now Evans is already looking forward to having her property back.

"Being able to access all of my yard and not losing anymore of it," she said.

She's also looking forward to not worrying about whether or not her utilities will be interrupted.

The city-parish says that the section of concrete in the canal will get a temporary patch soon. It will later be addressed in the five-tributary project that's supposed to get started in the next few months. It has been delayed as the parish works to secure property for construction equipment.

Permalink| Comments

Social Security offices remain closed, woman having issues with proving her disability https://www.wbrz.com/news/social-security-offices-remain-closed-woman-having-issues-with-proving-her-disability/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/social-security-offices-remain-closed-woman-having-issues-with-proving-her-disability/ On Your Side Tue, 8 Jun 2021 11:47:07 AM Brittany Weiss Social Security offices remain closed, woman having issues with proving her disability

UPDATE: The SSA reached out to Jackson within a day of Wednesday's 2 On Your Side report and told her that representatives had been trying to reach her at the wrong phone number for two months. 

Jackson was told the federal database still says she's not legally blind, and the agency is still debating the amount of benefits she receives each month. She's not sure when she'll hear back again but was told by an agent that her Medicare was not supposed to be cut off.

She is still waiting for her benefits.


BATON ROUGE - A woman is having a tough time getting her social security benefits reinstated even though she says she won an appeal to do just that.

Lakisa Jackson has been on disability for at least 20 years. She's legally blind and has a doctor's note that says so. But in the last year, she's had some issues with her social security benefits.

"My lights are off. I can't pay rent," Jackson said. "They're taking all my benefits."

She received an overpayment letter in the mail in November that said the Social Security Administration had determined her disability has ended and she's no longer eligible for benefits as of January 2019. The letter said her work activity shows her ability to do substantial work. Jackson has held several part-time jobs over the years but says the administration's records are wrong and they show her holding certain jobs for longer than she did.

She filed an appeal and says she won. In January, she was told it would be 30-45 days before those monthly benefits would start up again. She says she received her benefits for May, but nothing else.

"I don't have any money, about to be homeless," she said.

It's had a domino effect in her life and has now affected her ability to go see a doctor. She says her Medicare has been revoked.

"I didn't even know I didn't have insurance until I went to the doctor," Jackson said.

For months, Jackson says she's been calling the Social Security Administration since offices have been closed for most in-person appointments since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

"Every time I call they put me on hold and they never come back," she said.

People at the social security office in Baton Rouge Tuesday were turned away at the door.

Two On Your Side contacted the Social Security Administration about Jackson's case. There's no word from the feds on when she will get her money. The administration says it isn't seeing anyone in person unless they're applying for a social security number, and there's no word when it will fully reopen again.

Permalink| Comments

Neighborhood questions new property that resembles storage shed at front of subdivision https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighborhood-questions-new-property-that-resembles-storage-shed-at-front-of-subdivision/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/neighborhood-questions-new-property-that-resembles-storage-shed-at-front-of-subdivision/ On Your Side Mon, 7 Jun 2021 11:48:11 AM Brittany Weiss Neighborhood questions new property that resembles storage shed at front of subdivision

BATON ROUGE - A neighborhood is fighting to get rid of what it's calling an eyesore. The HOA in Maryland Heights contacted 2 On Your Side about a piece of property that seems to have popped up overnight and no one can say whether or not it's been done legally.

Ursula Clark-Holmes says it happened in the middle of the night.

"We were asleep and I heard some noise," she said.

A porch was delivered to an empty lot at the front of the subdivision. A week or so later a wooden structure was dropped off and later put on blocks. Clark-Holmes has lived in Maryland Heights for more than a decade and loves it, but this new addition to the neighborhood isn't exactly the representation she'd like people to see when they first turn in.

"This is a storage unit that is trying to be converted as a two-bedroom, one-bath home," said Clark-Holmes.

She points out there are no electrical, plumbing, or permits posted, but someone has recently poured a driveway. Clark-Holmes seems to think a smaller structure that has not been connected to the larger one, will become the one-bath part.

"It's not a home, it's a storage unit that they are trying to convert," she said.

When the pieces first started showing up, Clark-Holmes contacted the City-Parish and her council person.

The City-Parish says that there's an active inquiry about the property and it's communicating with the property owners about what's happening there. The City-Parish says it's a matter of compliance with local codes and ordinances.

But it's taking a little longer for Clark-Holmes to get the answers she's been looking for, especially since work continues. She says crews often work on the weekends or during the evening.

The City-Parish says the property owner has filed for a domicile permit. It has not been approved. If the property owner doesn't respond to the parish's inquiry it'll refer the matter to the City-Parish attorney.

Permalink| Comments

Residents experience flood flashbacks ahead of weekend weather https://www.wbrz.com/news/residents-experience-flood-flashbacks-ahead-of-weekend-weather/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/residents-experience-flood-flashbacks-ahead-of-weekend-weather/ On Your Side Fri, 4 Jun 2021 5:29:18 PM Brittany Weiss Residents experience flood flashbacks ahead of weekend weather

UPDATE: The City-Parish removed the debris from the Jones Creek choke point on Monday.

BATON ROUGE - Maintenance crews are working before the rain this weekend, clearing canals and drainage ditches. With the May flood still on the minds of many, crews in East Baton Rouge spent the week working through their schedule of clearing drainage systems.

Many people are still worried.

About three weeks ago, Jim Buckley got about an inch of water in his house. It was just enough water to ruin his floors that were replaced after the 2016 flood. Buckley took a cellphone video from his carport of the water filling Cuyhanga Pkwy and coming up his driveway.

He's lived in his Villa Del Ray home for 28 years. He flooded in 2016 and again on May 17. It's something he doesn't want to happen again.

"It's too much stress, too much pressure," said Buckley.

Each time there's heavy rain in the forecast he gets an uneasy feeling.

"Every time they get a heavy rain, I call it my own PTSD," said Buckley. "You get kind of... I don't want to do this again."

Jones Creek flows behind his house and just down the street, it makes a sharp turn. That turn travels south under Cuyhanga Pkwy where there's a spot that often collects large branches, trees, and other debris. Buckley says he's often the one to report the blockage to the City-Parish.

"Every time it rains it gets a blockage and when the water goes down you have to call it in," he said. "They close the ticket out, once they clean it it's done and they don't come back."

The City-Parish maintenance department has been working its regular schedule this week clearing roadside ditches, blowing out pipes, and removing beaver dams. A drainage crew on Paige Street dug out street drainage ditches Friday. Beaver dams were cleared between Nicholson Drive and Riverbend Blvd. A vacuum truck worked to unclog pipes on Wells Street Friday afternoon and a large pile of debris and trash-related items was removed from Sherwood Forest near Catalpa Street.

The city did not get to the Jones Creek problem spot Buckley called in a week or so ago. It's an issue that might keep Buckley up at night and eventually force him to leave.

"I hate to move but if this keeps up you just can't keep living like this," he said.

The City-Parish also replaced sand at sandbag locations around the city Friday. It says it will get to the Jones Creek blockage soon.

Permalink| Comments

DOTD: It costs nearly $2k to repair a damaged interstate cable barrier, but it's worth the cost and weekly work https://www.wbrz.com/news/dotd-it-costs-nearly-2k-to-repair-a-damaged-interstate-cable-barrier-but-it-s-worth-the-cost-and-weekly-work/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/dotd-it-costs-nearly-2k-to-repair-a-damaged-interstate-cable-barrier-but-it-s-worth-the-cost-and-weekly-work/ On Your Side Thu, 3 Jun 2021 4:51:58 PM Brittany Weiss DOTD: It costs nearly $2k to repair a damaged interstate cable barrier, but it's worth the cost and weekly work

BATON ROUGE - Cable barriers in the middle of the interstate are meant to keep out-of-control vehicles from crossing into oncoming traffic, yet, some are damaged and state work crews are trying to make repairs.

The barriers are used on highways across the country.

"They do work, we have anecdotal evidence that has seen the effects," said Rodney Mallett with the Department of Transportation and Development.

The evidence can be found as you drive along the interstate systems and see where vehicles run into those barriers. It's something the state says it's always working to keep up with.

"We have inspectors who go out looking once - at least twice a week," said Mallett. "They make a note and then we have people under contract who will go out and make those repairs."

Each repair costs an average of $1,700-$1,800. Over the last three years, DOTD says it's spent an average of $1.7 million each year to repair damage to cable barriers.

"Crashes are random, we can go a month and not see any damage to any of our cable barriers or we can go out and fix it on Tuesday and then go back out on a Thursday and the same spot has been hit again," said Mallett.

Repairs can depend on the severity of the damage. DOTD says if only two or three barrier poles are knocked down there is still enough tension in the cable for it to do its job. If there's a spot with 10-20 barrier poles knocked down, that project will be expedited.

There are more than 500 miles of cable barriers across Louisiana. DOTD says it's always looking at other locations where those barriers would be beneficial.

Permalink| Comments

Sen. Cassidy says federal enhanced unemployment benefit needs to go https://www.wbrz.com/news/sen-cassidy-says-federal-enhanced-unemployment-benefit-needs-to-go/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/sen-cassidy-says-federal-enhanced-unemployment-benefit-needs-to-go/ On Your Side Wed, 2 Jun 2021 5:05:32 PM Brittany Weiss Sen. Cassidy says federal enhanced unemployment benefit needs to go

PORT ALLEN - On a breezy day on the west side of the river, Sen. Bill Cassidy visited with Deloach Marine Services. The Senator met with the owner to learn about the difficulties he is having when it comes to hiring people to work.

"We should be coming out of the pandemic but you speak to employers and they're having a hard time getting employees," said Cassidy.

For months, people receiving unemployment benefits have also been receiving a $300 federal enhanced unemployment benefit, which was signed into law by President Biden under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Cassidy says some people receiving these benefits are making more money than they would if they were working.

"We need to get the federal government out of the way, put people on a ladder of success, not a ladder of setting aside a portion of their life," he said.

Restaurants have especially been feeling the heat. Some are short-staffed, others have to change their hours to accommodate the employees they do have.

At the shipyard in Port Allen, Cassidy says opportunities await. The business owner told him there is an opportunity for quick advancement with a starting salary of $28,000, in three years people can be making six figures.

"But if they never start that entry-level job you never make that progress," said Cassidy.

Cassidy says the federal unemployment supplement started because jobs were scarce. Now, some employers are scrambling to fill positions.

"There are enough jobs now and we're having to borrow that money to pay these benefits," he said. "I think it would be wise for the state to roll back those dollars to allow people to take the jobs that are out there and to begin that ladder of success.

At least 20 states have decided to lift those benefits this summer, prior to its Sept. 6 expiration date.

Last month, Governor John Bel Edwards says he has heard from a number of businesses who have requested that he lift the federal benefits early, but he has not made the decision to do so.

"I'm reluctant to prematurely lift those enhanced federal unemployment benefits especially if we don't have the benefit of a study that is particular to Louisiana to inform that decision," he said.

Governor Edwards said many people in the state depend on jobs related to tourism and tourism has not returned. He said that until tourism is back their jobs are not going to be back.

Permalink| Comments

Flood cleanup continues on Memorial Day https://www.wbrz.com/news/flood-cleanup-continues-on-memorial-day/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/flood-cleanup-continues-on-memorial-day/ On Your Side Mon, 31 May 2021 5:45:29 PM Brittany Weiss Flood cleanup continues on Memorial Day

BATON ROUGE - Instead of a Memorial Day BBQ, family gatherings in some neighborhoods involve flood clean-up after the torrential rain two weeks ago. Days later, there's still plenty of work to do.

Clara and Wayne Laird have lived in their Jefferson Terrace home for 44 years. This is the first time they've had to deal with a flood.

"We lost almost all of our stuff," said Wayne.

The Lairds are spending their Memorial Day sifting through what is left in the house and boxing it up. Some of it will be donated.

There is some progress in their neighborhood as the debris on one side of the street has already been collected. But there's been a lot of hardship and there's still plenty of work to do. With all that, Wayne says he's also seen a lot of good.

"There have been a lot of people who have come through and given us flood buckets and meals and so all that helps," he said. "It restores your faith in mankind."

Down the street in Lakeshore Gardens people have taken matters into their own hands and have cleaned out the storm drains since the storm. One resident said he pulled a vacuum and building materials from one of the drains.

"The problem is a lot of the drainage pipes, 24-inch pipes form the system in the neighborhoods eventually get plugged with dead grass naturally or other things people put in the drains," said Les Jensen.

He's lived in the neighborhood for 15 years or so and says he's not sure if the drains in his neighborhood have ever been cleaned out. Jensen got just enough water in his house to destroy all his floors.

The Lairds, without flood insurance, say they're facing a tough reality.

"We just say our prayers," said Wayne.

He's hoping to get some help from FEMA, but already knows that flood insurance will cost him.

"I checked on flood insurance and they told me it's going to be $5,064 a year and how can anyone afford that?" he said.

The City-Parish said its emergency storm collection contractor would work through the Memorial Day weekend.

Permalink| Comments

EBR says it's short-staffed, maintenance department full of vacancies https://www.wbrz.com/news/ebr-says-it-s-short-staffed-maintenance-department-full-of-vacancies/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/ebr-says-it-s-short-staffed-maintenance-department-full-of-vacancies/ On Your Side Fri, 28 May 2021 4:59:44 PM Brittany Weiss EBR says it's short-staffed, maintenance department full of vacancies

BATON ROUGE - There's some new insight into why East Baton Rouge couldn't get a jump on the heavy rain and flooding last week. The city has been saying it doesn't have enough workers to clear drainage ditches and canals.

The city-parish says the vacancies have existed for years, long before the current administration. The Department of Public Works currently has 186 funded vacancies. Of those, 60 are within the Department of Maintenance, and 26 of those 60 falls under Drainage Maintenance jobs. 

The city-parish says it's constantly looking to fill those positions. The parish says it offers competitive salaries when compared to jobs in the private sector. Many of these positions require a heavy equipment operator license.

This week, 2 On Your Side focused on a DIY project that's getting a lot of attention. Stanley Livingston is tired of flooding and has taken on a big job of cleaning out a section of Dawson Creek behind his street.

"I decided that hey if the city's not going to do anything I'm going to cut them down," he said.

In the process, Livingston has cut down and cleared more than 200 trees from Dawson Creek.

Last week in Jefferson Terrace, where dozens of homes flooded, Jeff Liberty found a blockage in the drainage ditch behind his house.

"I just came to see what might have happened, why I might have flooded," Liberty said.

He wonders if that blockage wasn't there would he have gotten that inch of water in his house. The parish came out the next day to clear the blocked drainage ditch.

In May 2019, 2 On Your Side was told then that there were about 200 vacancies within the Department of Public Works. Sharon Bell experienced the shortage then.

"He said that they're low on workers and that they got a backup," Bell said.

Some wonder if that's why Baton Rouge citizens are now taking on bigger projects themselves.

Wednesday, 2 On Your Side went on a tour with the city-parish to take a look at projects the Department of Maintenance has been doing. They included clearing blocked culverts and removing a tree from Dawson Creek.

Permalink| Comments

As clean-up drags on, capital area looks ahead to the next storm https://www.wbrz.com/news/as-clean-up-drags-on-capital-area-looks-ahead-to-the-next-storm/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/as-clean-up-drags-on-capital-area-looks-ahead-to-the-next-storm/ On Your Side Fri, 28 May 2021 2:52:54 PM Brittany Weiss As clean-up drags on, capital area looks ahead to the next storm

BATON ROUGE - It's often a tough job to clean up following a hurricane. Homeowners, business owners, and crews are navigating downed trees and power lines. In Friday's 183 Days of Hurricane Season piece, 2 On Your Side's Brittany Weiss tells us what's at stake for people responding after a storm and whether an ice storm may have prepared them for the next big storm.

Last year may have been a rough year for everyone. While the world navigated a pandemic, Louisiana faced the cone of uncertainty six times. Hurricane Laura hit the hardest in the southwestern part of the state as a category-four hurricane.

The aftermath has been devastating. It left people in the dark for weeks, utility poles snapped in half, trees and other debris were everywhere.

John Hawkins, vice president of distribution operations for Entergy in Louisiana, says 2020 was a very busy year.

"We're constantly challenged with different types of weather events. So for us we always stay in a state of readiness," Hawkins said.

With each storm, utility crews from around the country are called in to assist, and last year they were faced with a grim picture.

"We have a lot of dedicated men and women working for Entergy who really lay it all on the line for our customers," Hawkins said.

During Hurricane Laura, damage to Entergy's system included 1,800 transmission structures, 12,000 damaged poles, 4,200 transformers that were damaged or destroyed, and 27,000 spans of distribution wire damaged or destroyed. At its peak, there were 270,000 people in the dark. Entergy says the power was 90% restored within three weeks.

Two other storms, Delta and Zeta brought category-two winds. While the infrastructure damage numbers were much lower, there were more people without power.

"Delta, I think we were 90% restored within three days and Zeta, four days to be at 90% restored," Hawkins said.

Long before the storms hit, Entergy says it's preparing. Teams are looking over damage models trying to predict what to expect based on the weather forecast.

With all those storms, it makes you wonder if they in any way prepared Baton Rouge for the February ice storm.

"I wouldn't say they prepare you--there's a lot of vegetation," Hawkins said. "When you think about Baton Rouge, there's a lot of tree canopy there. So whether it's the ice or the hurricanes we always tend to get some tree damage and a lot of tree damage."

Baton Rouge knows what that's like. It takes a little longer to clean up tree damage than it does to restore electricity.

"Each one of those events we ask ourselves one fundamental question: how can we get the debris up more efficiently and faster?" East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill said.

In July 2019, Hurricane Barry came rolling through the Baton Rouge area as a category one storm. Baton Rouge collected almost 35,000 cubic yards of debris. Nearly 57,000 cubic yards of debris was collected following Hurricane Delta last year, and it took the parish about eight weeks to clean up. During the 2021 ice storm, about 72,000 cubic yards of debris were cleared in about four weeks. That's about 22 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

"One of the things we did do to increase capacity was to suspend recycling for a week and take those 15 trucks that normally pick up recycling during the week and put them on storm debris," Hill said.

Looking forward to the next storm, Baton Rouge says it's in good shape and has removed about 5,000 trees that were at risk of falling.

Both the city-parish and Entergy say now is the time to take care of your personal property.

"If there is any trimming that you personally need to do on your property, you should be doing that now," Hawkins said.

Parishes and utility companies know there's always room for improvement. It's why they say they're constantly looking at the next time they'll need to react to an emergency.

Permalink| Comments

Man's DIY canal-cleaning project continues with help Thursday https://www.wbrz.com/news/man-s-diy-canal-cleaning-project-continues-with-help-thursday/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/man-s-diy-canal-cleaning-project-continues-with-help-thursday/ On Your Side Thu, 27 May 2021 5:05:33 PM Brittany Weiss Man's DIY canal-cleaning project continues with help Thursday

BATON ROUGE - It's nice to have some help from your friends and that's what one man got after taking it upon himself to deal with clogged canals in Baton Rouge.

The City-Parish is even stepping in after the 2 On Your Side story first aired on Monday. People even called, wanting to help.

Stanley Livingston was back out in Dawson Creek again Thursday, cutting down and hauling trees. He had some help from Matt Thomas of TULIPA. The two worked to cut down the remaining trees and started tackling a large mulberry tree that started this whole project.

"I got quite a few people who wanted to help and actually donate money," Livingston said.

He's been spending hours at a time tackling a portion of Dawson Creek along S. Acadian Thruway behind his house to the interstate. Livingston has worked to clear more than 200 trees and take them to the curb.

The city-parish saw the story earlier this week and has been out there twice so far to collect that debris. Another pile is already growing to be collected Friday.

"This is the third pile we're taking out of Dawson Creek and hopefully it'll be the last," he said.

Livingston hopes it'll help him and his neighbors with their flooding concerns since homes on Honeysuckle Avenue tend to flood often. But the work downstream is far from over.

"As bad as it was growing up here at my house... I walked the whole canal from College to here, and there's something like 800 trees," said Livingston.

The city-parish was out in Dawson Creek earlier this week taking out one tree. But, as Livingston says, there is a lot more to do.

Livingston is also concerned about an obstruction he recently found in Dawson Creek between Staring Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard. There's a footbridge behind the Little Caesar's Pizza off Perkins Road that has collapsed and fallen into the canal. The city-parish tells 2 On Your Side it is now aware of the collapse, and the Department of Maintenance is going to take the steps to remove that bridge from the creek area.

"And that would really help out our neighborhood and all the neighbors that are adjacent to Dawson Creek," he said.

The city-parish told Livingston that they appreciate his work. They will be going by soon to pick up that last pile of debris.

Permalink| Comments

Tenants living upstairs at flooded apartment held to their lease agreement https://www.wbrz.com/news/tenants-living-upstairs-at-flooded-apartment-held-to-their-lease-agreement/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/tenants-living-upstairs-at-flooded-apartment-held-to-their-lease-agreement/ On Your Side Wed, 26 May 2021 5:14:28 PM Brittany Weiss Tenants living upstairs at flooded apartment held to their lease agreement

BATON ROUGE - The images are shocking, scary and still unforgettable for people who lived through it. Flooding rain poured into the first-floor apartments at Siegen Calais last week off Siegen Lane. It also flooded in 2016.

But not everyone is getting a chance to pack up for higher ground.

An email went out last week to tenants that says people living in the downstairs units can get out of their lease. Tenants like Nikita Johnson who are living on the second floor don't have that same choice.

"Well, what warrants a lease termination? Should we die in here?" she said.

Johnson moved into Siegen Calais last month. Since she's moved in, Johnson says she's experienced multiple issues with her air conditioning unit, her parking pass, and now the units below her flooding. The high water swallowed up her car last week.

"Do you see how high that water got on the bottom floor? We had to be boated out of here," Johnson said.

Tenants were rescued by boat Monday night, including Johnson and her two young children.

"My kids never experienced that. They're 12 and seven," Johnson said. "My son was giving my 7-year-old his last will and testament in child form. 'Sister, if anything happens to me you can have all my toys.' Do you know how much it hurt me to hear him sitting on the sofa saying that?"

As her neighbors continue to toss out all their damaged property, Johnson, while above the flood line wants out of her lease. She contacted 2 On Your Side after Siegen Calais staff sent an email to the tenants explaining what's next, including who will and who won't be let out of their leases. It says downstairs residents only will be let out of their lease without penalty. People on the second floor will stay.

"For them to tell the bottom residents they can terminate their lease but not for us at the top, like what do I have to do to tell you that I need to leave?" she said.

Johnson responded to the property management company, First Choice Management Group, saying that she'd like to be excused from her lease for various reasons. The management responded and said that if she breaks her lease she'll be liable. First and foremost, Johnson says she's worried about the mold.

"No one wants to get sick from that - I have two kids!" she said.

Regardless of what happens, Johnson says this weekend she's moving out and refuses to write her apartment complex another check.

WBRZ reached out to First Choice Management Group about Johnson's lease and has not heard back.

Permalink| Comments

City-Parish provides 2 On Your Side with tour of maintenance projects https://www.wbrz.com/news/city-parish-provides-2-on-your-side-with-tour-of-maintenance-projects/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/city-parish-provides-2-on-your-side-with-tour-of-maintenance-projects/ On Your Side Tue, 25 May 2021 5:26:29 PM Brittany Weiss City-Parish provides 2 On Your Side with tour of maintenance projects

BATON ROUGE - The mission continues to clear clogged canals in East Baton Rouge. It comes after a story Monday about a man doing it himself after his neighborhood has flooded multiple times.

Tuesday, the City-Parish showed 2 On Your Side where it's been working recently. In Dawson Creek near Nairn Park, the City-Parish worked to clear a tree. It's also removed loose branches and dirt from a canal at Baird Drive. At Brentwood and Cullen Avenue a large tree was removed from blocking a box culvert. Last week, following a 2 On Your Side report about a blocked drainage ditch that may have caused some homes to flood, the Department of Maintenance followed up and went there the next day.

Wednesday, the crews will be working in a neighborhood behind Academy Sports off Airline Highway to clear a drainage way there.

Permalink| Comments

Man takes on major DIY project, cleans out Dawson Creek himself https://www.wbrz.com/news/man-takes-on-major-diy-project-cleans-out-dawson-creek-himself/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/man-takes-on-major-diy-project-cleans-out-dawson-creek-himself/ On Your Side Mon, 24 May 2021 5:33:53 PM Brittany Weiss Man takes on major DIY project, cleans out Dawson Creek himself

BATON ROUGE - It's not the do-it-yourself job anyone would want, but it's the one that's most likely to get things done. A man who is frustrated with flooding from clogged canals in Baton Rouge is taking it upon himself to clear them out.

Stanley Livingston lives on Honeysuckle Avenue, a street that is no stranger to flooding. It's where 10 homes on the short stretch flooded last week. Flowing parallel to Honeysuckle between there and S. Acadian Thruway is Dawson Creek. It often overflows during heavy rain.

Livingston says he's lived in the same house for more than 40 years and has watched Dawson Creek become overgrown.

"It hasn't been cleaned properly in 30 years!" Livingston said.

He first flooded in 1995 and has flooded a handful of times since, including last week. A while ago, Livingston says he asked the city-parish to help him cut down a tree in Dawson Creek behind his house.

"I got to looking at it, and my one tree was not really the problem," Livingston said.

That's why a few weeks ago, tired of waiting on someone else, he decided to do the job himself.

"I decided that—hey—if the city's not going to do anything, I'm going to cut them down."

Livingston has been spending his weekends driving his truck down into Dawson Creek, cutting down trees, removing branches and pulling them from the canal. He says he's cut about 200 trees and stacked them into neat piles for the city to come and pick them up.

The Transportation and Drainage Director for the city-parish tells 2 On Your Side that he's applied for state funding for an overhaul of Dawson Creek. It'll cost about $10 million, but Livingston says he's already taken care of a portion of that project.

"All they need is a Bobcat and a chainsaw and a crew of people," Livingston said. "There's no rocket scientist required here, and it doesn't take any study."

He believes that if he hadn't cleaned out that portion of the canal, his flooding issues would have been a lot worse last week. He can only imagine the potential of everyone taking a little piece of the puzzle.

"I just don't think they would because it wasn't easy."

But he can dream, especially since projects to do work downstream are delayed. Until then, the work he's done has at least given him a little peace of mind.

Permalink| Comments

City, state ask flood victims to report damage as cleanup continues in Baton Rouge https://www.wbrz.com/news/city-state-ask-flood-victims-to-report-damage-as-cleanup-continues-in-baton-rouge/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/city-state-ask-flood-victims-to-report-damage-as-cleanup-continues-in-baton-rouge/ On Your Side Fri, 21 May 2021 5:28:05 PM Brittany Weiss City, state ask flood victims to report damage as cleanup continues in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE - As some people battle back rising water, others are using a break in the weather to continue gutting their homes. In Baton Rouge, the City-Parish is working with homeowners to document the damage in the hopes of getting federal help that could offset the costs, especially for people without flood insurance.

Friday, 2 On Your Side spoke with a couple of people who were gutting their properties and tossing their ruined belongings to the curb.

Landen Gualla says the water came into his condo on Summa Avenue around 1 a.m. Tuesday. He says it's the first time it's happened.

"When it does rain the road will fill up but when it started touching the sidewalk, that's when we knew it was a problem," said Gualla.

He measured seven inches of water in his home. His car is also waterlogged.

In Westminster, flood properties are numerous. Homeowners are doing what they can to clean up and have called out insurance adjusters to get their claim started. The water line at Kelsey Davis' house is about two feet high.

"We were throwing everything on tables and trying to save as much stuff as we possibly could," said Davis.

A lot of items didn't make the cut and have been piled high at the curb.

The City-Parish says it's still assessing the damage from this week's storm but it's encouraging everyone who has been affected to fill out the online damage assessment survey so they can get a better idea of how many homeowners and renters were affected. You can find the survey for the City-Parish here. Others, go to the state website here.

Permalink| Comments

Show me the money! Fully-funded flood projects held up by lengthy process https://www.wbrz.com/news/show-me-the-money-fully-funded-flood-projects-held-up-by-lengthy-process/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/show-me-the-money-fully-funded-flood-projects-held-up-by-lengthy-process/ On Your Side Thu, 20 May 2021 5:53:31 PM Brittany Weiss Show me the money! Fully-funded flood projects held up by lengthy process

BATON ROUGE - For people who live along creeks and canals in Baton Rouge - it doesn't matter what they look like now, they're living in fear and worried about the next flood as the waterways rise with every rainfall.

For years, WBRZ has been reporting about various projects and money that's already been allocated to the state and the parish. Red tape is mainly to blame for why that money hasn't been spent yet.

As people line the streets of Morning Glen with debris, Matt Chaisson is still cleaning out his house. He says he got about two feet of water in his house and the water came up in a couple of hours. Right behind his house, near St. George School, Ward Creek continues to swell with water. After cleaning up flood damage in 2016, Chaisson says he's done.

"Something's wrong, it's going to happen again. We're leaving after this time. We're not rebuilding and doing it again," Chaisson said. "You know if it happened like that, it's going to happen again."

When is the question. It's got people talking about why flooding continues to be an issue.

Fred Raiford is the Director of Transportation and Drainage at the city-parish, and he has his hands full. While delegating projects, Raiford often fields complaints from people in the parish. After flooding two times himself, he says he understands why people are frustrated.

"Drainage ditches in the parish are set up for a 25-year storm," he said. "We've exceeded the 25-year storm on many occasions. I know people are frustrated I understand that, I do."

He's frustrated because some projects that the parish has been talking about for years, even decades, are and have been fully funded. Including one that would make improvements in Ward Creek behind Chaisson's house and four other tributaries. The parish says they aren't quick fixes. Utility coordination has also been a lengthy process, and the parish experienced delays while gathering information from utility owners.

The Flood Risk Reduction Project was fully funded in 2019, and public comment for the Environmental Assessment ended in January 2021. The Army Corps of Engineers is addressing those comments and hopes to have them wrapped up by June. East Baton Rouge Parish is still working to acquire real estate to house construction equipment.

Contract awards for lower Jones Creek, Bayou Fountain, and Ward Creek will go out in August 2021. Raiford expects work to start soon after.

"It's taking a little longer than you would think, but that is the process, and I'm required to follow the process," Raiford said.

The cleaning of the middle and upper portion of Jones Creek and Beaver and Blackwater Bayous is also in the works. The Army Corps says contract awards should go out in the first quarter of 2022.

If the process is not followed, Raiford says those funds could be lost. He also says he's applied for funding for a handful of other major drainage projects under the available Hazard Mitigation Funds, but they haven't been approved by the state. One of them involves an overhaul of Dawson Creek, which often overflows and causes a big issue for people along S. Acadian Thruway. Raiford anticipates that the project will cost about $10 million and involves swapping box culverts for bridges in two locations.

FEMA also funded the $15 million Baton Rouge Stormwater Master Plan. That involves an assessment of the parish's drainage system. When finished, that assessment will identify problem areas and provide solutions. But that's only a study, and it will not help to fund any of those solutions.

The Comite Diversion Canal project is also fully funded and is delayed beyond its previous anticipated 2021 completion. The land is still in the process of being acquired.

Watch Raiford's full interview with 2 On Your Side's Brittany Weiss for an update on parish drainage projects.

Permalink| Comments

Jefferson Terrace cleans up flood damage following Monday's storm https://www.wbrz.com/news/jefferson-terrace-cleans-up-flood-damage-following-monday-s-storm/ https://www.wbrz.com/news/jefferson-terrace-cleans-up-flood-damage-following-monday-s-storm/ On Your Side Wed, 19 May 2021 5:09:15 PM Brittany Weiss Jefferson Terrace cleans up flood damage following Monday's storm

BATON ROUGE - People are feeling overwhelmed in Jefferson Terrace where dozens of homes flooded Monday night. The cleanup continues there where the destruction is piled high at the curb.

Chrystine and Kevin Dominique have lived in their house on Landsbury Avenue for 18 years and have never had water inside until Monday.

"Eighteen years, never imagined we'd be going through what we're going through right now," Chrystine said.

Previously, water has filled the street but drained quickly. Around 9 p.m. Monday, the Dominique's knew they had a problem. 

"When we saw the mailbox underwater we kind of knew we were in trouble, like, you can't even see the mailbox at all," Kevin said.

Now that mailbox is missing, presumed to have floated elsewhere. Like their neighbors, their floors, furniture, and other items are piled at the street waiting to be cleared away. Jeff Liberty lives on Ridgely Drive and also received water in his house. Just enough to ruin everything.

"We started seeing water seeping in under the doorways and through the walls," Liberty said.

Two On Your Side first met Liberty in 2017 when he had been concerned about flooding. A drainage ditch behind his house had collected debris and was blocking the flow of water. This week, he found the problem is back. Now he'll be ripping out flooring, cabinets, and Sheetrock.

"I think all of that could have been avoided if this ditch had been cleared up," Liberty said.

The City-Parish is asking those who experienced damage from this week's storm to complete an online damage assessment survey. You should upload a photo of your waterline on the damaged property.

Permalink| Comments