GIBSON, La. -- Terrebonne Parish residents filled thousands of sandbags as they made final preparations in anticipation of the opening of the Morganza spillway.
Inmates will be brought in Saturday morning to help with the effort.
Cindy Prejent, a Gibson resident, worries that her house will flood from water that is set to be let loose through the Morganza spillway. She spent Friday filling sandbags with friends and family in an effort to try and protect her home.
“We have dogs, everything to move,” said Prejent. “We have to get them out of here, regardless.”
Prejent is one of 25,000 Louisianans whose home could be flooded once the Morganza is opened – a move to relieve pressure on the swollen Mississippi River to protect major cities in the state like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“What gives them the right to flood us?” said Prejent. “I understand it, but there are so many communities and so many farmers and so many businesses.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal said that Army Corps of Engineer officials were given the green light by the Mississippi River Commission to open the spillway on Saturday. Built in 1954, the Morganza spillway has only been opened once, in 1973.
The western part of Terrebonne Parish, where Prejent’s home lies in Gibson, is expected to get up to five feet of water.
Parish officials are getting ready for the inundation of water.
“I’m particularly concerned because the western part of the parish, where the Morganza flooding is designated to take place is one of the poorer portions of our parish,” said Parish President Michel Claudet, “and oftentimes those are the same individuals that don’t have flood insurance.”
Crews have been brought in from outside the parish to help protect areas. At Gibson Elementary School, teachers plan to work through the weekend to get the school ready move equipment away from potential floodwaters.
“It’s the not knowing, the unpredictable,” said Monica Breaux, principal for Gibson Elementary. “We don’t know how high the water will get here, and I’m afraid this will disrupt things. We are going to try and keep things as normal as possible for as long as we can.”
In the years since the Morganza was last opened, there are marked differences in the area, especially in towns like Gibson.
“We are much more populated than we were before,” said Claudet. “Areas that were predominately agriculture have now been inhabited.”
Prejent’s home sits on a former sugar cane field, and when she built her home she said she had no idea she was in a flood plain.
“Everybody pray for us for everybody here in Gibson because everybody is in the same situation,” she said.