STEPHENSVILLE, LA – While nearly 13,000 people in Morgan City, Louisiana are keeping a wary eye on the rising river and crossing their fingers that the levees will hold out the rising waters, about 6,000 people in nearby Stephensville don’t even have that luxury.
Outside of levee protection, residents there have been spending much of their time lately trying to fill sand bags and make sure that their homes are protected from an expected onslaught of water if the Morganza Floodway is opened, as expected, sometime in the next week.
There was a major sandbagging operation taking place near highway 70 in Stephensville with prison laborers in their striped suits filling up bags, a job they had been doing since just after 7 a.m. Residents were filling their own and picking up others, all in an attempt to keep themselves and their belongings dry.
“We’re very worried,” exclaimed an anxious Larry Doiron, Jr., who spent his day, along with others, working to build a temporary solution. “It’s going to be bad and we’re going to do whatever it takes to protect it. I have it (sand bags) all over our property, trying to save it.”
Plans to use a barge to flood a local bayou are expected to keep the water down somewhat.
Many are using sandbags to protect their homes, others are evacuating themselves and their valuables.
“I’ve got a feeling we might get seven or eight feet of water (if they open the spillway),” said Larry Doiron Sr. “Everything would be under water. Highway 70 would be under water. You won’t be able to get out of here. It’s miserable for everybody. It’s hard on business people and it’s a stress on families.”
In Morgan City, the Atchafalaya River is already two feet above flood stage with the water lapping at the dock of the city.
If the Morganza Spillway is opened, as expected, it is anticipated the river will rise another six feet, bringing it to unprecedented levels. A 22-foot floodwall protects the city but most everyone in the city will tell you there is a sense of apprehension.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in that wall,” said Mayor Tim Matte. “And we have a lot of confidence in those Atchafalaya basin levees.”
The main concern is the eastern edge of the city, where the levee sits only six feet high. That’s the estimate of how high the water could get. To supplement the protection, Hesco baskets are being filled and placed atop the levee by the National Guard to raise the protection another three feet.
Matte’s nightmare is what happens if the protection fails.
“Probably as much as three-quarters of the residents would have flooding, because we’re a lot like New Orleans in that we’re surrounded by a levee system and in some cases we’re at or below zero.”