Flood questions pour in

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2011

vidalia — Questions — many without answers — reverberated off the walls inside Vidalia First Baptist Church Wednesday night.

Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland gathered with a large crowd to help ease fears and share information about Mississippi River flooding.

What level will the levees hold? How high could the water get in Vidalia if the levees break? And, how long would residents have to get out if the levees break?

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They were all questions no one can really answer, the leaders said.

Maxwell did say, however, that the U.S. Corps of Engineers is “very comfortable” with where the levees are currently.

“I have complete confidence in the levee system,” Maxwell said. “We’re in constant contact with the levee board, we’re in constant contact with the Corps of Engineers, we’ve had several meetings and they’ve been extremely forthcoming. They have complete confidence in the levee system.”

One issue officials are combating is the rumors spreading on social networking sites about the flood, Maxwell said.

“One of the biggest things that we’re combating now is Facebook, text, tweet; I’ve been tweeted to death,” Maxwell said. “And it’s extremely important that we deal in facts.” and the truth. As much as we are combating the river (we’re combating) all the rumors.”

One question dealt with the possibility that the ring levee around Concordia Parish could cause problems in the parish if it were breached.

“It’s a double edged sword,” Maxwell said. “It will be a great benefit if we have a breaching outside that ring. If we have a breaching in the ring, sure it would be a problem because the water is going to flow down into the southern end of the parish basically and hold there.”

“Of course we have a pumping station down there. I don’t know what their capacity is, but it surely has a great capacity to pump the water out. Hopefully, theoretically, we could pump the water out as fast as it came in, in order to at least neutralize it.”

Copeland offered words on encouragement to the crowd, and affirmed that the levees are in good shape.

Copeland said he has received some criticism for his focusing more on the riverfront than downtown Vidalia, but he said that the first interest of officials is to keep the people safe.

“We are working feverishly at the riverfront,” Copeland said. “We believe that the levee system will support us (in town).”

Copeland said that the Vidalia riverfront has approximately $75 million worth of construction on it, and said the city is working feverishly to protect those buildings. They are using the Hesco Bastion defense system around individual buildings on the riverfront to protect them from flood waters.

Maxwell wanted to remind citizens that the levee is closed and that anyone caught on the levees will be arrested, he said.

Maxwell also said that Louisiana 15 will be closed starting at 9 a.m. today until the water goes down, approximately two weeks, he said.

Copeland reminded citizens that the riverfront is closed.

Both officials emphasized the use of the Code Red Alert System and asked people who are not already signed up for the service to do so.

When asked what the community members can do to help out the efforts Maxwell said that residents of Concordia Parish should focus on helping their neighbors.

“I’ll tell you what you can do. If you know someone in the community that may be elderly, or may be by themselves, you can visit them and calm their fears and help them get their stuff together, and let them know if something does happen (you will) be there to take care of (them).”