Governor Jindal held a press conference today following a UCG meeting with state and federal officials to outline information on the effects of the Corps' decision to open the Morganza Spillway.
Governor Jindal said, "We know the Corps will make the decision to open the Morganza Spillway when the trigger point of 1.5 million cubic feet per second at the Red River Landing gauge is reached. The Corps said they expect this trigger to be reached around by Saturday.
"The Corps also presented us today with information on population statistics and structures that could be impacted by the opening of the Spillway. Their information shows that there are about 2,500 people located inside the Spillway and 2,000 structures. In the backwater area, there are about 22,500 people and 11,000 structures that would be impacted by the Morganza Spillway opening.
"Even before Gen. Walsh opens Morganza, there is no reason for people to wait. Now is the time to plan for where you would need to go and where you need to evacuate. Take these next few days to do everything you can to prepare your property and think about where you would stay if there is an evacuation order issued in your area. Most importantly, pay close attention to local law enforcement as they issue safety information for residents."
Governor Jindal added, "The Corps told us that roughly three days after opening the Morganza Spillway, the water will reach the Morgan City area and about five days after reaching Morgan City, the water will rise back up in the northern areas, causing backwater flooding.
"In Baton Rouge, the Coast Guard told us the Hollywood Casino will shut down their operations at 45 feet, which is estimated to be on the 15th, and the Casino Rouge will shut down operations at 47 feet, which is projected to be on the 22nd. The Hollywood Casino in downtown Baton Rouge is already experiencing some flooding in their parking lot.
"Today, the Coast Guard is beginning to use the aircraft out of Mobile to evaluate the river levels, as we requested yesterday. The Coast Guard will also use this aircraft to locate anyone who may remain on the ground and be able to evacuate them before the Morganza Spillway is open. State agencies are also currently preparing search and rescue teams to assist citizens who may be stranded by flooding, as the water levels rise."
LA National Guard Update
The Governor also said that Louisiana National Guard LNOs are in parishes throughout the state, reporting that several parishes have ordered voluntary evacuations for residents in at-risk areas related to the possible opening of the Morganza Spillway. These parishes include: St. Landry, St. Mary, St. Martin, W. Baton Rouge, Iberville, Assumption. Areas with a "Strongly Advised Evacuation" order are in Catahoula, Point Coupee and Iberia Parishes for those areas inside the Atchafalaya basin levees.
In support of state and parish requirements, the Louisiana National Guard will have approximately 500 Guardsmen mobilized for this event, by the end of today. In the last 24 hours, the Louisiana National Guard deployed Liaison teams to Ascension and East Baton Rouge Parishes and now has LNO teams in 19 affected parishes in order to coordinate National Guard support to Parish efforts. In addition to Parish LNOs, the Louisiana National Guard also has a liaison team embedded with the Corps of Engineers.
In support of St. Mary Parish yesterday, the Louisiana National Guard began constructing 13,000 feet of HESCO barrier in order to fortify and elevate levees along Lake Palourde to prevent backwater flooding in Morgan City and Amelia. Another 2,600 linear feet of HESCO baskets will be delivered to Amelia today.
Yesterday in Morgan City, the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration approved the purchase of 300 cubic yards of clay to put a ring levee around a pump station. OCPR also performed field inspections at the Spillway yesterday.
Governor Jindal said, "With the potential opening of the Morganza Spillway, Louisiana National Guardsmen are inspecting levees and assessing possible low-lying areas. Guardsmen are prepared to support parish actions to conduct door-to-door notifications and to support parish evacuation efforts in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Louisiana State Police. As part of the contingency planning for the possible Spillway opening, the Louisiana National Guard has high-water vehicles staged in affected parishes in the event that evacuation is required."
Also in preparation for the possible Spillway opening, DOTD yesterday hauled 216 cubic yards of sand in stabilization efforts on the south Morganza Floodway guide levee. To date, DOTD has hauled 486 cubic yards of sand to help fight the seepage that is starting to occur in this area.
Yesterday, LANG assisted in the identification of 40 Sand Boils in East Carroll and 20 Sand Boils in Concordia Parishes. LANG continues to assist locals in flood fighting efforts in North Louisiana. The Guard is also conducting aerial over-flights of the levees in support of local, state and federal agencies.
DOTD now has more than 86 staff members and 65 trucks and equipment actively deployed in flood prevention efforts. A total of 15 DOTD staff members are actively assisting levee districts and the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 24-hour operation of levee inspections from the Arkansas line to the Old River Control Center in Lettsworth.
DOTD currently has 25,380 linear feet of Hesco baskets ordered. Shipments of baskets are being received continuously, with 650 feet of Hesco baskets from BP. Governor Jindal said the state expects the need to exceed the amount of Hesco baskets available and have therefore begun to use recycled asphalt and other available resources to supplement sandbagging operations.
Yesterday, DOTD began assisting the Red River, Atchafalaya, and Bayou Boeuf levee districts in the reinforcement of the Hamburg Loop levee along La. 451 also called the Big Bend levee. A total of 13 DOTD dump trucks have hauled approximately 1,720 cubic yards of fill material, which will be utilized by the levee districts to build up the elevation of the levee specifically in locations where a roadway reduced the levee's original crown elevation. This work should continue into the weekend with an approximate total of more than 10,000 cubic yards of total fill material being utilized to heighten the low areas on the levee.
At the request of the Coast Guard, construction on the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish has ceased operations that involve marine access to the structure and the contractor is in the process of removing and securing equipment from the river. Construction on the main structure continues.
In East Baton Rouge, DOTD has hauled 224 cubic yards of sand in an effort to secure the U.S. 190 pump station located near the base of the Huey P. Long Bridge, also called the Old Mississippi River Bridge. Also, DOTD recently announced that the northbound and southbound outside lanes of River Road will close from Third Street to North Street in downtown Baton Rouge because of flood-protection and prevention work.
In St. Martin Parish, the Butte La Rose Rest Area and Boat Landing is closed until further notice due to rising water. The Butte La Rose Welcome Center remains open and DOTD is building a levee around that structure to protect it from possible flooding.
In West Feliciana Parish, La. 10 from Royal Street to the old ferry landing is closed due to flooding -- until further notice.
In St. John the Baptist Parish, DOTD yesterday closed the Reserve/Edgard ferry until further notice due to high water.
More offender evacuations from Louisiana State Penitentiary are underway today. LSP will move Death Row offenders to the old Death Row. 184 offenders will move from LSP to the Elayn Hunt facility. A total of 192 offenders from Louisiana State Penitentiary were moved to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (EHCC) on Monday. Security and medical staff from LSP have also been temporarily assigned to EHCC to assist with the care of these offenders.
Around 100 offenders will be moved from the David Wade Correctional Center to Winn Correctional Center. This will free cellblock space for future evacuation plans. Also, all Parole Board hearings scheduled from Tuesday, May 10 through Friday, June 3, 2011 have been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.
DOC is also working with other agencies to house around 150 sex offenders who may need to be evacuated in order to ensure public safety.
DHH is verifying that the 17 hospitals and 11 nursing homes they have now identified as at high-risk of flooding and two hospitals at moderate risk have adequate emergency response plans. DHH is also assessing any needs the hospitals may have to ensure safety of their patients whether they evacuate or shelter in place. DHH is ensuring that these facilities are able to evacuate, if needed or shelter in place.
DHH is also contacting every in-home nursing service recipient in the 21 affected parishes to ensure they are prepared for evacuation. Additionally, DHH continues to monitor the drinking water systems in Stephensville, River Ridge and Vidalia and work with the National Guard to ensure drinking water will be available if the water systems become compromised.
The CPRA is working with the St. Mary Levee district, Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, St. Mary Parish, Terrebonne Parish and the city of Morgan City to sink a barge in Bayou Chene to reduce backwater flooding in St. Mary and Terrebonne Parish. The state has stationed a full-time project manager in Morgan City to work on this effort.
Members of OCPR toured Morgan City, Stevensville and Amelia to determine need for flood protection in low-lying areas. OCPR delivered closure material for Bayou Chene. Closure will provide protection for backwater areas like Berwick and Amelia.
DCFS is preparing state shelters in the event local governments need them and has the Alexandria Mega Shelter set up with 1,052 cots and Bastrop shelter set up with 1,600 cots.
DCFS is also preparing to keep unaccompanied children, in the event they are separated from their parents during flooding.
Four new parishes have declared states of emergency -- East Feliciana, Morehouse, St. Charles, and Franklin today - bringing the number of parishes with emergency declarations to 25 since yesterday.
DEQ has already identified 33 post-water clean up sites where debris can be deposited after the flooding event.
Governor Jindal said Entergy reminded people to boat safely after floodwaters begin to rise, as some power lines may be live and come in close contact with rising flood waters. Local officials will issue warnings and advisories in coordination with Entergy as power lines pose risks in flooded areas.
Federal Emergency Declaration
Governor Jindal said that today Missouri and Tennessee received a Major Presidential Disaster declaration for flooding damage done in their area. The state estimates the cost of responding to this flooding event to date is currently $5.2 million. He said this rising cost underscores the importance of quickly getting a full Disaster Declaration to assist state and local governments in responding to flooding even before the Major Presidential Disaster Declaration is issued. The state also recently re-requested the US Department of Defense to fund the operations of the Louisiana National Guard, especially as the Corps has requested their equipment for many of their federal missions.