Guard arrives for flood

Published 12:02 am Thursday, January 7, 2016

VIDALIA — The Louisiana National Guard arrived in Concordia Parish Wednesday to help with the local flood fight.

The Mississippi River is predicted to crest at 59 feet at Vidalia Jan. 17, within 3 feet of 2011’s record high water and well above the flood stage of 48 feet. The river is expected to be at 51.9 feet at 6 a.m. today.

Concordia Parish Homeland Security Director Payne Scott said the Guard’s role will be limited to patrolling the levee system, and 24-hour patrols would start Friday.

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But while access to the levees has been restricted, public roads — including ones that cross the levee to the Vidalia Riverfront — are still open.

“The grounds of the levees and the tops of the levee are closed,” said James McRae, who works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Vidalia Office. “If the circumstances warrant it, the Fifth Levee District and the Corps will make recommendations to close roads, but at this time all roads are open.”

In particular, Fifth Levee District President Reynold Minksy emphasized Wednesday that Louisiana 15, which as a paved road runs along the top of the levee in a portion of Concordia Parish, remains open.

The Vidalia Riverfront district was last impacted by floodwaters when they reached 58 feet in the 2011 event. Located within the Riverfront district are the Riverview RV Park, Promise Hospital, the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center, Riverpark Medical Center and Comfort Suites.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the city will begin the process of securing the water wells on the Riverfront with Hesco baskets today, and will hopefully have the Riverfront secured with a temporary ring levee of Hesco baskets by next week.

“We will go down the riverwalk with the Hesco baskets, and will cut back across where Promise (Hospital) is at so all those businesses will be secure, so we will not have any water issues there,” he said.

“We want to assure the general public that we are getting constant updates from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and we feel very, very comfortable with what we are doing, as we gained some valuable experience in 2011.”

Copeland said the city has been meeting constantly with Homeland Security, and any resident who has any questions about the flood preparations can contact him at 601-807-4286, but so far he has had only one call.

“The general public is aware of what we are doing and are satisfied with us and the job we are doing,” he said.

Vidalia Police Lt. Beverly Metcalfe said the police department is working with the TRIAD program to get a list of elderly people and those on oxygen or who have other medical needs that might need attention as the flood fight progresses. The police department can be reached at 318-336-5254.