BUTTE LAROSE, La. (AP) — The final wave of holdouts has mostly packed up and left this Louisiana town as water from the swollen Atchafalaya River has inched toward their homes, with their frustration and hope painted on signs posted outside.
“Nothing left worth stealing,” read one. “Stay strong. Believe,” urged another. “Our hearts are broken, but our spirits are not. We will come HOME,” are the words Kip and Gwen Bacquet spray-painted on the plastic liner that covers the entire first floor of their house.
Most had left Butte LaRose days earlier amid high tension as the water continued its trek toward the area, about 45 miles west of Baton Rouge.
The Army Corps of Engineers partially opened the Mississippi River’s Morganza floodway May 14 to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans from catastrophic flooding, but the water it was diverting from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin still hadn’t reached the town nearly a week later.
That has led to an agonizing wait for residents. In St. Martin’s Parish, La., a mandatory evacuation was ordered to take effect Saturday, only to be pushed back at least two days after officials said the river would crest May 27 at a lower level than previously thought. Meanwhile, communities along the Mississippi River in Mississippi wait for floodwaters to recede.
The delayed evacuation in St. Martin’s Parish, La. is likely to be a source of optimism and frustration for residents who have heard the same grim forecast for days on end. Once the water comes, residents may not be able to return for weeks. They’ll have to wait until Monday for officials to decide whether to reinstate the evacuation order.
“It’s probably a blessing for some because maybe some people who didn’t have time to do additional sandbagging will now have more time,” said Maj. Ginny Higgins, a spokeswoman for the St. Martin’s Parish sheriff’s office.
Kip and Gwen Bacquet moved their furniture and other belongings to the second floor of their home, nine feet off the ground. They are bracing for up to five feet of water to inundate their neighborhood. Gwen Bacquet, 54, said the canal in their backyard has been rising about four inches per day. Their pier already was underwater.
The couple moved here last summer for a change of pace from their native Lafayette, a city of about 120,000 some 60 miles west of Baton Rouge. The Bacquets savored their final hours before evacuating by lounging on the deck overlooking the canal in their backyard, sharing a few bittersweet laughs with two friends who came to help.
“I’m probably numb,” Gwen Bacquet said. “We still don’t know what to expect.”