National Guard leads evacuations in Cajun country after floodgates open
By Published: May 16, 2011
Renee Ledoux cried when the National Guard and sheriff's deputies showed up at her front door and warned her she needed to get out to avoid water gushing from the Mississippi River after a floodgate was opened for the first time in four decades.
But by the 5 p.m. deadline Sunday, the 44-year-old Ledoux and her boyfriend Billy Hanchett decided to ride it out one more night on air mattresses inside the empty home in Krotz Springs. They have a camper they plan to stay in on a friend's property outside the flood zone.
It will be at least a week before the Mississippi River crest arrives at the Morganza spillway, where officials opened two massive gates on Saturday and another two Sunday. There are 125 in all. The Mississippi has broken river-level records that had held since the 1920s in some places.
The Army Corps of Engineers has taken drastic steps to prevent flooding. Engineers blew up a levee in Missouri - inundating an estimated 200 square miles of farmland and damaging or destroying about 100 homes - to take the pressure off floodwalls protecting the town of Cairo, Ill., population 2,800.
The Morganza flooding is more controlled, however, and residents are warned each year that the spillway could be opened. A spillway at the 7,000-foot Bonnet Carre structure in Louisiana also has been opened.
Just outside Krotz Springs, 23-year-old Jake Nolan said National Guard troops knocked on the door of his home in a subdivision to tell his mother of the evacuation order. He said they advised her to have white towels and have access to the roof if they planned to ride it out - presumably in case of a rescue - though that didn't appear to be part of any official instructions. And besides, he didn't need an order to leave with his wife and three children.
Read more about the National Guard's efforts to control flooding from the Associated Press