spillway opening by Saturday evening
Written byNicholas Persac
10:25 AM, May. 13, 2011|
"The water is coming." That was the word from Gov. Bobby Jindal in a Friday morning press conference saying the Morganza spillway north of Baton Rouge could be opened as early as Saturday night.
While the Army Corps of Engineers said earlier Friday morning that no decision had been made on whether to open the Morganza spillway, Gov. Bobby Jindal, in his 11:30 a.m. press conference, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, in a press release, both indicated the flood gates would be opened Saturday or Sunday, at the latest.
"Based on what we're hearing from the Army Corps of Engineers, it's extremely likely the spillway will be open by tomorrow night or by Sunday at the latest," Jindal said. "We're extremely confident they are going to open the spillway by tomorrow or by Sunday."
Jindal said the Corps will start by opening only part of the spillway, but as more water moves downstream, more portions of the spillway will be opened.
"In the beginning, they are going to start opening it gradually," Jindal said. "You're not going to see a flood increase all of a sudden."
The Corps said river flow is approaching 1.5 million cubic feet per second. The corps has recommended to the Mississippi River Commission, on oversight body, that the spillway be opened at that point.
If Morganza is opened, water would flow 20 miles south into the Atchafalaya River. From there it would roll on to the Gulf of Mexico, flooding swamps and croplands.
Morgan City, a community of 12,000 at its southern end, is shoring up levees as a precaution.
Meanwhile, the Corps continued to open gates at the Bonnet Carre spillway, near New Orleans, to relieve levee pressure. Water is being diverted into Lake Pontchartrain.
Jindal said local law-enforcement agencies are going door-to-door to tell those living in the affected area to evacuate. He said the door-to-door notifications will be complete within 28 hours.
Jindal said the state is also working with American Red Cross to provide adequate shelters for those affected. He said there are 22 shelter sites in the spillway that Red Cross has identified and will operate.
"If you know you're going to need assistance, let your local officials know," Jindal said.
The governor highlighted numerous efforts along the river being taken by a number of agencies to strengthen the levees, to build temporary barriers and to inspect for any structural damage.
He said local sheriff departments and the National Guard continue to use tiger dams and other methods to build up levees.
Jindal said he doesn't expect the flood to be a "worst-case scenario" but the state is still "preparing for the worst." He said he doesn't expect any levees to be breached.
Jindal emphasized that residents should execute flood plans and study inundation maps.
"Now is the time to take action," Jindal said.
"Don't delay. Don't hope for something to change. You can certainly pray for the best, but now is the time to evacuate your valuables and loved ones."
Jindal said the government will continue to provide updates and flood inundation map forecasts, as well as continue other flood preparations.
"We are proceeding under the presumption the spillway will be open tomorrow or Sunday," Jindal said. "We continue to fight this flood."