FLOODWATCH: Corps opens one gate at Morganza Saturday, plans one or two more Sunday

Deidre Cruse

Water gushed through as the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers opened single gate of the Morganza Spillway at 3 p.m. today (May 14) and announced plans to open one or two more gates on Sunday.  The Corps took the historic action to relieve pressure on local levees, lower the river stage and reduce the velocity of the river current as record floodwaters surge toward Baton Rouge, Iberville Parish and points south. This is only the second time since the facility was built in 1954 that it has been activated; that was in 1973.

The structure is 3,906 feet in length with 125 bays, or gate, which can move up to 600,000 cubic feet per second of water if necessary.

Iberville Emergency Preparedness Director Laurie Doiron said the first gate will divert some 10,000 cubic feet of water a second from the Mississippi River and into the Atchafalaya.

At 7.48 gallons of water per cubic foot and 8.35 pounds per gallon of water, that is equal to approximately78,500 gallons or 624,580 pounds of water a second, 4.71 million gallons nearly 37.5 million pounds of water a minute or 282.6 million gallons or nearly 2.25 billion pounds of water an hour.

Iberville Parish residents voluntarily evacuated some 200 structures, mostly camps, on the spillway side of the basin last weekend. Gov. Bobby Jindal has estimated some 25,000 residents and 2,000 structures are at risk in other parts of the spillway.

The area on the land side Atchafalaya Basin is well protected by levees, but could face some backwater flooding. Doiron said the Corps of Engineers said if a barge sunk at Bayou Chene near Morgan City works as expected, it should reduce the danger of water backing up into the  Bayou Sorrel and Bayou Pigeon areas.

Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. said some residents in the White Castle, Bayou Pigeon and Bayou Sorrel areas have picked up sandbags the parish began making available at sites around the parish on Saturday and at the Department of Public Works' maintenance facility on Bayou Road on Friday.

Two crews of inmates from Hunt Correctional Institute and one crew from the Iberville Parish Jail prepared additional sandbags all day long today at DPW, he said.

Until further notice, sandbags will be available to Iberville Parish residents from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the maintenance facility and at the Bayou Pigeon fire stations, Bayou Sorrel fire stations, Old Rajun Cajun Site in Bayou Pigeon, White Castle Fire Station on La. 404, East Iberville Fire Station on La. 30 in St. Gabriel, Maringouin Maintenance Barn on 2nd Street, Grosse Tete Maintenance Barn at 18125 Willow Street, Old Depot at 15201 Depot Street in Rosedale and an empty lot on Graham Street next to White Castle Police Department.