May 16th, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Louisiana residents evacuate as spillway fills lowlands

Butte La Rose, Louisiana (CNN) - Unleashed by its U.S. Army minders, the Mississippi River poured across Louisiana lowlands Monday on its way to inundate thousands of homes and businesses as the Corps of Engineers fights to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"Hope you appreciate this Baton Rouge. You're welcome," read one sign posted outside a home in the path of the floodwater.

St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier said about three-quarters of his constituents' homes are expected to suffer water damage after the weekend opening of the Morganza Spillway by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The controlled release of water from the swollen Mississippi has lowered projected flood levels for cities downstream - but the lowered crests are little consolation to those living along the Atchafalaya River basin, where the water is being diverted.

"It just tears my heart up to know that these people's lives are fixing to change," Cormier said.

And Krotz Springs, about 20 miles down the Atchafalaya, Mayor Carroll Snyder told CNN that workers are scrambling to put together a temporary levee to protect about 240 homes on the south side of town.

"They're not happy with it, but it's something that we've been knowing for quite some time - that it was inevitable, that it would have to be opened," Snyder said. "They've come to deal with it."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal offered at least a ray of hope to his state's residents on Monday, saying the decision to open the spillway has lowered crest projections in parts of the state. Just as important, river observations now suggest the Corps may need to divert less water from the spillway than initially thought, he said.

That would mean less water in communities in the path of the spillway, he said. But he warned that flooding, in some cases at record levels, is still coming.

"There is still a significant amount of water coming our way," he said.

Based on historical estimates, damages to agriculture alone in Louisiana could total $300 million, Jindal said.

A near-record crests is forecast in Greenville, Mississippi, on Tuesday, followed through the weekend by record crests in Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi; Red River Landing, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, according to the National Weather Service.

In Greenville, more than 200 miles north of the spillway, the river was just short of its projected crest of 64.3 feet at noon Monday, according to the Weather Service. That was more than 16 feet over flood stage and less than a foot below the peak of the historic flood of 1927.

In Natchez, the river is expected to rise five feet above the 1927 record of 58 feet, weather service forecasts show. The predicted crest is 15 feet above flood stage, and the Coast Guard has closed the river to navigation along a 15-mile stretch near the city, Cmdr. Mark Moland said Monday.


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soundoff (One Response)
  1. frank

    Yes aderson will all that water that is coming out the flood gates is this going to flood the marshes with the oil still in it?

    May 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |