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|Levees in good shape; 55.5 ft. crest next week|
While the Mississippi continues a steady rise at Vidalia -- with a crest of 55.5 feet expected April 15th -- local and district officials say they are prepared.
"The levees here are in good shape, but the water is rising," said Reynold Minsky, president of the Fifth District Levee Board. "What looks grave is all of the water that will be coming down from the Ohio Valley, about three to five inches. But we're in good shape here."
He noted, however, that "we've got a tremendously large amount of sand boils, and have been sandbagging in Tensas, Madison and East Carroll. Now that could change in two minutes."
Sand boils have also been reported in Concordia.
"The biggest problem we have here right now is all of the flood waters coming straight off the rivers," said Morris White, Concordia's Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness. "Our levees in the parish are sound and everything looks good. The water is just now getting on the bottom berm of the levees."
He said that although an emergency declaration is in effect (see page ??), no action is required by the public.
White said the levee districts and "the Corps of Engineers have been doing a good job. The probability of water topping the levees here is very, very slim."
He said the Bunge Elevator at St. Joseph was taken by flood waters on Sunday and one man drowned in high water in Tensas Parish.
"Another thing, of course, that is worrisome to people is whether they should get flood insurance," said White.
One of the biggest obstacles officials have faced has been dispelling numerous rumors that abound.
"Rumors have gone wild," said Nancy Whitten, administrative assistance for the levee board. "People are calling saying that they've heard that the levees have been topped or breached. They're also calling their insurance companies with concerns."
John Stringer, Executive Director of the Tensas Basin Levee District, said he has been spending some of his days recently "squashing rumors. There have been concerns about the Mississippi River and a levee failure. We are all as well prepared as we can be."
Whitten said the Fifth District levee district recently went from a Phase 1 flood fight to Phase 2 last week, which requires levee patrols 24 hours a day.
"More diligence, of course, is needed now," said Whitten.
"Our main concerns are sand boils and seepage," said levee board member Barry Maxwell of Concordia Parish. "We have put in relief wells since 1973 that flow like artesian wells and this has helped."
He added that since 1973 levees in Concordia and elsewhere have been raised with work ahead at Sloughdaddy's north of Vidalia and from the RV Park and Bunge Grain southward.
Whitten said that levee roads are now closed to all traffic except for authorized personnel and residents who live along those roads.
In Catahoula Parish, the Sicily Island Levee, dedicated in June 2003, is not expected to get a true test, says Stringer of the Tensas Basin Levee District.
"The levee is certified for 100-year protection, but we're not expecting the rivers to get that high," said Stringer.
There are two pumping stations in the SI levee system -- one on the Haha and another on Fool River. The Fool River station began pumping Saturday and was shut off at 5 a.m. Tuesday, having dropped the inlet by about two feet.
Stringer said the Black River at the Jonesville Lock & Dam was at 44.9 feet on Tuesday. Flood stage there is 50 feet.
"We're 10 feet below flood stage in Monroe on the Ouachita," said Stringer.
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