FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 16, 2011
Rising water uproots rural Louisiana residents in Mississippi River drama that will continue
Look for a map of the affected area. Do you recognize any cities' names?
Choose a news photo from the flood region and describe its impact on you. List at least two words or phrases that come to mind.
Find a weather forecast for Louisiana to see if fresh rain could worsen the situation.
Epic-scale flooding has displaced thousands of Southerners fleeing "what is surely the nation's slowest-moving natural disaster," as The New York Times front page put it Sunday. The rain-swollen Mississippi River threatened farms and towns for three weeks in a drama that escalated last weekend when federal engineers took a drastic step for the first time since 1973: They opened floodgates in Louisiana to lower the river's near-record levels. Water shot through the partially lifted spillway like a waterfall, as the video below shows.
That diversion, which began Saturday and could last at least three weeks, is aimed at keeping Baton Rouge and New Orleans dry. But it lets water rise in swampy rural areas where about 25,000 people live and 11,000 buildings could be affected. Evacuations and sandbagging of homes, roads and an interstate highway started early last week in those communities, where oysters, shrimp and crawfish provide the main source of income. Some small Louisiana towns in what's known as Cajun country will be destroyed by water that could rise up to 25 feet.
The situation is caused by runoff from heavy winter snowfalls in Minnesota, Illinois and other Upper Midwest states along the Mississippi, followed by steady rain in April. The high water rolling south is expected to reach its peak at New Orleans next Monday and then take up to two weeks to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. Until then, the impact of diverted water and the threat of wider floods will remain in the news.
Evacuee says: "I can't see living anywhere else." -- Deborah LeBlanc of Butte La Rose, La.
New Orleans mayor says: "It doesn't make us feel any good that [by] protecting New Orleans, other folks are going to get hurt." -- Mitch Landrieu
Resident says: "It's making people feel comfortable again. The water has to go somewhere. I'm sorry for the [flooded] farmers." -- Ernest Newman of Morganza, La.
Front Page Talking Points Archive