Army engineers prepared Saturday to slowly open the gates of an emergency spillway along the rising Mississippi River, diverting floodwaters from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, yet inundating homes and farms in parts of Louisiana's populated Cajun country.
About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm's way when the Morganza spillway is unlocked for the first time in 38 years on Saturday around 4 p.m. EDT.
"It will be a slow, controlled opening," said Ken Holder, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the spillway.
Sheriffs and National Guardsmen were warning people in a door-to-door sweep through the area, and shelters were ready to accept up to 4,800 evacuees, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
Some people living in the threatened stretch of countryside — an area known for small farms, fish camps and a drawling French dialect — have already started fleeing for higher ground.There are entire communities that are coming together to battle these floods and to preserve and save whatever they can. Farmers are being hit hard by these floods:
The Mississippi was supposed to have been tamed by the lock and dam system. Instead, it continues to get out of hand, thanks to the weather, and it continues to frustrate people who live near it.