While a state of emergency has been issued for lower Saint Martin Parish, residents in the Henderson and Butte La Rose areas aren’t letting their guards down.
Officials in St. Martin Parish are watching the river levels closely as the Atchafalaya sits just below minor flood stage. And while they anticipate the river to crest in a couple of days, they’re staying alert.
Henderson Mayor Sherbin Collette is an avid outdoorsman, so watching the local river level is part of his daily routine.
But these days he’s keeping an eye on the flood gauge in Cairo Illinois; where the great Mississippi meets the Ohio River and tells a lot about what we can expect in Henderson Lake and the Atchafalaya Basin.
“Cairo crested at 56.5 right around there and that’s serious high water. Now, it’s starting to fall and I looked on the gauges in this morning and it’s falling about a foot a day then it’s going to actually increase the fall”, Collette said.
Jim Delahoussaye lives along the Atchafalaya River. He says the river cycles between high water and low water.
Being that his dock is almost fully submerged, we can guess what the current cycle is.
“There’s a great deal of water in the river basin already and it’s a bit of a concern that the ice and snow has not gotten here, it hasn’t melted yet”, Delahoussaye said.
As long as our local river and lake levels can drop before the snow melts up north, we should be fine.
But Delahoussaye says his family has evacuated in the past. His concern is the river will still be full when the spring rise arrives.
“The orange flag is where the water was in 2011 when we were threatened with a flood and had to vacate. The blue flag is as high as it got in 2016”, he said as he referenced markers he placed on a small cypress tree to mark the height of the river.
Mayor Collette says as long as the Mississippi River continues to drop about 12 inches a day, that’s very good news for the area; anything more than that could trigger an opening of the Morganza Spillway
The Army Corps of Engineers says there currently is no plan to open the Morganza Spillway.
The trigger point to open it is a river height of 57 feet and a flow rate of 1.5 million cubic feet per second.