St. Landry Parish Orders Mandatory Evacuations

May 16, 2011
Originally published on May 16, 2011 11:34 am
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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, it sends the water to other rivers, bayous and wetlands, forcing thousands to flee.

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GREG ALLEN: At Alan Snyder's house, south of the town of Krotz Springs, there's a lot going on. A trailer with a crane is loading a self-storage unit he's rented, filled with just about all of his and his wife's worldly possessions.

ALAN SNYDER: This is the second one. I've got just about everything - all my furniture, all my valuables and stuff. You know, just let them take it and store it. So...

ALLEN: And he has a trailer out back, filled with tools, lawnmowers and a golf cart. Moving the accumulated possessions of 20 years is a lot of trouble, and Snyder says he's not sure it's necessary. He recalls the last time the Morganza Floodway was opened in 1973, and says this area, where he built his home, never flooded.

SNYDER: I'm not real scared, you know, like I say, but, you know, to protect me and my wife - I got a wife now, you know. I wouldn't do nothing to jeopardize the levee breaking or something. If the levee breaks, then we're in a hurt.

ALLEN: Yesterday, officials in St. Landry Parish ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents in the area where Snyder lives. He, like many I spoke with, wasn't happy about it. He said he'd been working since Wednesday, but still had much more to get out of his house.

SNYDER: I just think they jumped the gun on it. I don't know if they're trying to hurry people up or what, you know, but like I say, we need a little bit more time.

LISA VIDRINE: Everyone's had a week-and-a-half, really, to get their house in order, so to speak, to prepare for this particular point where we area today.

ALLEN: Lisa Vidrine is the director of St. Landry Parish's Department of Emergency Preparedness. She says parish officials based the evacuation order on Army Corps of Engineers maps. They indicate the area around Krotz Springs would be among the first to see rising water levels.

VIDRINE: Well, the water that we are expecting to see is backwater, water that's coming down the basin area, and that's going to come around the levee system that stops south of St. Landry Parish. And that's going to spread out into the basin, and then start backing up to St. Landry.

ALLEN: Sergeant Lloyd Martin is with the Louisiana National Guard.

LLOYD MARTIN: We're probably, if I had to guess, 60 percent completed on our section. The top grade on the entire project will be at a level of 28 foot, six inches.

ALLEN: Spearheading the fight is Army Corps of Engineers General Michael Walsh. Standing at the Morganza Floodway over the weekend, he noted that the battle in Louisiana is just getting started. The river here is still rising, and isn't expected to crest until later in the week.

MICHAEL WALSH: So this is certainly going to be a marathon and not a sprint as we go through this tremendous amount, huge amount of water as it comes down.

ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.