Inmates cleaning up hurricane debris
DULAC, La. (AP) — It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
As the area cleans up from Hurricane Barry, Terrebonne Parish inmates such as Trent Folse have been dealing with the blistering heat to collect debris left behind in the storm.
“There’s been a lot of trash,” Folse said (Wednesday) at the Petit Caillou Floodgate in Cocodrie. “We’ve been picking up wood, bottles, refrigerators, tables. Anything you can imagine. Just stuff that floated from people’s houses.”
On Tuesday (July 16), the cleanup operation was concentrated on Four Point near Grand Caillou Road in Lower Dulac. The project is a collaborative endeavor between the Sheriff’s Office and parish, and is scheduled to continue all week.
Folse was one of about 30 inmates who worked with deputies gathering storm debris at the floodgate.
So far, work crews have collected over 45 tons of trash, officials said. Like preparing for the storm itself, removing the debris has become another race against the clock, Parish President Gordy Dove said.
“When the tide comes in and out, that stuff is going to drift all over Terrebonne Parish,” Dove said. “So imagine all that waste up and down our beautiful bayous. We had to act quickly. Over the years that stuff has been buried in marshes and just washed up with such a high velocity of water.”
The debris can also impede and damage floodgates and levees, officials said.
Enduring Hurricane Barry’s wind and rain was just part of the challenge, said Col. Terry Daigre, Terrebonne sheriff’s chief criminal deputy.
“The floodgates and levees proved themselves,” Daigre said. “They did their job for this storm, but it looked trashy all over here. The storm surge brings all that debris up and puts it against the floodgates and across the levees. When all that water subsides, a lot of that debris stays. Now it’s time to get it all cleaned up. We’ve got dumpsters piling up in different places. We’re doing our part at the Sheriff’s Office to try and do what we can to help the parish government save money on the cleanup.”
Scattered among the debris on the side of a levee (Wednesday) was an intact picnic table with an umbrella.
“The water put it up here,” Daigre said. “Lord knows where it came from. There were also boats up here a couple of days ago.”
Daigre sees parallels between the hurricane cleanup and a large scale criminal investigation.
“This storm proves what can happen when all entities of local government work together, from the preparation of the storm through the storm itself and the aftermath,” he said. “It’s just like working a big investigation. When we have assistance and cooperation with multiple agencies working together everything works better.”
Recovered property such as kayaks are collected and set aside in an effort to reunite them with their owners, Daigre said. He also warned people not to take advantage of absent property owners and tenants.
On Tuesday (July 16) there were at least two incidents involving people attempting to steal items left behind in the storm, Daigre said.
“Our deputies are vigilantly watching areas at risk for theft due to the storm,” Daigre said. “To be clear, anyone removing property from a residence or camp can and will be charged appropriately. We have and shall continue to make arrests for property violations.”
Inmates who partake in the cleanup efforts are nonviolent offenders who go through a background check, Daigre said.
“Civilians may come into contact with these inmates, but these are all nonviolent,” Daigre said. “They have a screening process to do stuff like this. I’m proud to see how hard these guys work. I have yet to hear one of them complain.”
Richard Prosperie was recently convicted on a meth distribution charge. On Wednesday (July 17) he was raking and piling debris left over from the storm. Although the work has been tough, Prosperie said it beats being in a cell.
“It’s been a lot of work,” the inmate said. “We’ve been out here since the beginning. On Saturday (July 13) we went out in the storm on the levee in Montegut to sandbag. I’ve never been out in a storm before. It was pretty cool until my feet got wet. There’s also been some snakes and alligators. I’ve worked on an oilfield for most of my life, so I’m used to it. We’re just giving back to the community, you know? It keeps us out of jail.”
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com