National

Downriver, an agonizing wait

BUTTE LAROSE, La. —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 move 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.

While Mississippi communities that line their namesake river were waiting for floodwaters to recede Saturday, Louisiana residents in the path of diverted waters were enduring an agonizing wait.

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.

In Vicksburg, Miss., Chris Lynn fired up his small aluminum boat and traveled about a mile to check out his father's house. The home sits on a 15-foot mound of dirt on the Mississippi River's banks, much like an island in the murky water.

"It looks like the water has come down about 2 inches," Lynn said, grabbing his cell phone to call his 73-year-old father with the news. "That's good. The floor is starting to dry out."

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