Flood of 2015: The worst is over…We hope

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Courtesy of Joe Nickle A view of the Red River from the Margaritaville Resort Casino this past weekend. The river was due to crest at 37 feet on Monday, its highest point in approximately 70 years.

Red River crests, due to begin receding but will remain high for months

The bad news: the Red River has swollen and swallowed swaths of land in Bossier Parish, causing evacuations, road closures, and many other headaches and worries for local officials and residents. The good news: according to officials, the waters will begin to recede, although still remain high for several months.

The Red River was expected to crest at 37 feet on Monday. Last Thursday, the Red River reached the same level as the 1990 flood and now is at its highest level since 1945.

The water will remain high for several weeks and then slowly recede to about 27 or 28 feet, where it will remain through early August.

Gov. Bobby Jindal offered Bossier officials assistance during a briefing Friday afternoon at the Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (BOHSEP) in Bossier City.

Gov. Jindal met with Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington, Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker, and a host of parish and state leaders Friday to address the flooding.

“I want to start by commending everybody,” Gov. Jindal said.  “I know you have been working hard and you’ve been at it for several weeks now. Unfortunately, this is not going to be over, even after the crest subsides. The National Weather Service has been telling us we are going to be dealing with high water for several weeks…I thank you for communicating so well to the public and letting them know what to expect…even as the numbers (of the Red River crest) have changed.”

Jindal activated  the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) that same day. The LANG has repositioned more than 255,000 sandbags from state warehouses to six parishes in order to support parish flood fighting preparations. In addition, they moved six sandbag filling machines in the area, which are capable of filling 400-500 sandbags per hour. By Friday afternoon, Guardsmen hauled 200,000 bottles of water to northwest Louisiana to back up the drinking water supply.

U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-La., is pushing for federal disaster support for flooded areas in Louisiana. Vitter led a call with local officials late last week to determine needs of the surrounding communities and has contacted the Army Corps of Engineers regarding lock and dam repair.

“State and local governments need every tool and resource available to respond to this severe flooding,” Vitter said. “Due to the worsening forecast, we need to do everything we can at the federal level to make sure folks are safe and our communities aren’t at further risk.”

Residents of River Bluff subdivision and Cash Point RV Park have fled their homes due to a recommended evacuation by parish officials after a foot of water was in the neighborhood roadways, flooding approximately a dozen homes in the subdivision; the park has an impassable road at the north end of the park and a loss of power to the sewage system.

Sheriff Julian Whittington viewed areas in south Bossier Parish Saturday afternoon that could be affected by the anticipated backwater flooding from the Red River up to Loggy Bayou, Red Chute Bayou, Flat River and other tributaries that feed the Red River.

Residents in south Bossier Parish south of La. Highway 527 need to be prepared for backwater flooding that could occur this week. Water is already on some of the roadways in south Bossier Parish, including Atkins Clark Road and Levee Board Road.

About 10 homes in Buckhall Road, the area just north of Cash Point, have seen flooding or have water or have water very close. Flooding has also been reported at Ash Point near Taylortown and Red River South Marina.

Officials anticipate backwater flooding to occur at Lake Bistineau, possibly rising another two feet, similar to that of 2009. The lake has now been closed to boat traffic, due to rising waters, according to Bossier and Webster officials.  Camp owners along the lake are advised to closely monitor the situation as the water rise and take proper precautions.

BOHSEP is also attempting to gather information on any resident in Bossier Parish who has experienced damage to their property from the Red River flooding. The governor mentioned at last week’s briefing for people to document any damage, and local BOHSEP officials stress for residents to photograph or video your damage and retain any receipts pertained to cleanup and restoration.  Residents who have experienced any damage to their homes, businesses or properties can call 425-5351.

The American Red Cross’ evacuation shelter at Elm Grove Elementary School has remained open for residents affected by the flooding. A sand bag distribution site was established Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Tooke Memorial Library in south Bossier Parish at 451 Fairview Point Road.  Help with loading sandbags will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; however, sand bags will be available 24 hours.

In addition to water damage, many residents are facing another hazard — wildlife. There have been several reports of alligators and snakes washing up on lawns facing the now sudden waterfront property.

“Alligators tend to move around in flooded ditches and canals. A lot of neighborhoods now days have water retention ponds. It’s not uncommon to see nutria, beavers, snakes and alligators in those areas. Although they are present, most times they are not a nuisance,” advised Ed Mouton, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Program Manager.

If a local resident comes across an alligator, keep away and call the Minden office at 318-371-3049. There’s an established program for alligators that places hunters around the state. Once a call is made, a hunter is dispatched to assess the situation. Depending on the size, they will capture and release it or catch it and kill it.

“Most problems occur when people get curious. They see an alligator crossing the road and stop to help it,” said Mouton. “We don’t recommend feeding them. There’s no law against it, but we certainly don’t recommend it. You can’t judge what they will do and what their reaction will be.”

Even for those not battling the rising waters, the flooding has heavily impacted travel as well, with the major concern being along the Arthur Ray Teague Parkway.

Both lanes are closed from the Shreveport Barksdale Bridge south to Reeves Marine Drive in order for the Bossier City Fire Department to pump water back to the Red River as a preventative measure to protect the South Bossier Water Treatment Facility. Both lanes of the ART Parkway are also closed from McDade Street to Shady Grove Blvd until the flood waters recede. Motorists are asked to use Barksdale Blvd (US Hwy. 71) for north/south travel until the parkway is reopened.

The Bossier City Police Department and the Louisiana Department of Transportation has also closed the off ramps of the Shreveport Barksdale Bridge that lead onto the parkway due to flooding concerns. The rising of the Red River is causing the east side of the parkway to flood and water has risen onto the on and off ramps of the Shreveport Barksdale Bridge where they adjoin the parkway.

The bridge will remain open as usual but no traffic will be allowed to exit onto the parkway in either direction.

Other road closures in Bossier Parish as of press time include:

n La. 537 in north Bossier Parish from Pittman Road to Log Ferry Road.

n La. 515 in south Bossier Parish from the Loggy Bayou Bridge in Red River Parish to U.S. 71 in Bossier Parish.

n I-220 outside lane westbound from Benton Road to the Red River.

Officials encourage all residents who might be in jeopardy of flooding to ensure they have an emergency plan in place and take appropriate actions now.  Officials are urging residents to understand the scope of the flooding, in which high waters will be in the area for the upcoming weeks.