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THE INVESTIGATORS: How did the AquaDam breach happen? State leader explains

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:14 PM CDT
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IBERVILLE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - For the people living in rural Iberville Parish, the panic was instant.

Without warning, early Friday, May 21, water rushed past an AquaDam placed along Bayou Sorrel.

The rubber tubing did what it could to keep floodwater at bay after the state was pounded with back-to-back heavy rains.

RELATED: AquaDam fails, evacuations ordered in part of Iberville Parish

But in a matter of minutes, the AquaDam gave way, sending dozens of neighbors scattering to safety and out of the path of the water.

State leaders are now seeking to explain how this happened in the first place, and how they’ll stop it from happening again.

“Everything we do in this business, particularly when it comes to emergency response has consequences. Recognize that we can only hold water by equal force and when you have a greater force of water than perhaps the AquaDam has, then you see the effects of it,” said Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Shawn Wilson.

RELATED: Iberville Parish government working to deploy aqua dams to combat flooding

Though Iberville Parish officials are responsible for placing and maintaining the structure, DOTD has stepped in to help with repairs.

Wilson says the flood scare Friday morning can be blamed on water pushing the dam out of place rather than the dam failing to do its job.

In Wilson’s view, the abnormal circumstances that led to the incident Friday morning are due to the abnormal weather Louisiana faced for the better part of the week.

“I think the reality is you have to be concerned with climate change and the fact that we’ve had 16 to 20 inches of rain over a four-day period,” said Wilson. “Things are weirder, wetter, and wilder and these changes are much more violent in many regards. We’re living in an area where we have to do a much better job as a society to overcome those issues.”

Late Friday, crews began reinforcing the AquaDams with concrete barriers to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Wilson called the experience a challenge to find long-term solutions to the state’s flooding issues.

He says those solutions could include dredging area waterways or elevating roadways.

“It’s not necessarily a failure, it’s a challenge,” said Wilson. “AquaDams are a piece of that solution when there’s a crisis but you have to think about this crisis when you’re not in the crisis and be prepared for it.”

Residents who evacuated their homes were told to shelter at a nearby civic center until crews could fully reinforce the AquaDams.

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