Billy Hanchett, center, and his girlfriend Renee Ledoux pose in their bare living room in Krotz Springs, La., Sunday, May 15, 2011, after emptying their house in advance of forecasted flooding brought on by the opening of the Morganza Spillway north of town. Hanchett and Ledoux plan to stay in a trailer parked outside of their home for as long as possible. If high flood waters force local officials close access to the town, which is protected by a ring levee, they plan to pull their trailer inside the ring and wait for the water to recede. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Updated: June 17, 2011 12:36AM
KROTZ SPRINGS, Louisiana — Authorities warned people Sunday to get out as Mississippi River water gushing from a floodgate for the first time in four decades crept ever closer to communities in Louisiana’s Cajun country, slowly filling a river basin like a giant bathtub.
About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be affected by the oncoming water. The floodwaters could reach depths of 20 feet in the coming weeks, though levels were nowhere close to that yet.
The spillway’s opening diverted water from heavily populated New Orleans and Baton Rouge — along with chemical plants and oil refineries along the Mississippi’s lower reaches — easing pressure on the levees there in the hope of avoiding potentially catastrophic floods.
About 11 miles north of Krotz Springs in the town of Melville, parts of the town not protected by levees were under a mandatory evacuation order. Glenda Maddox’s husband had temporarily reopened the gas station he closed in December so people could fuel up before they leave.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” she said. “We don’t know if the levee is going to hold up.” AP