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Evacuees make for Katrina escape site

A farming community built for evacuees of Hurricane Katrina has become a haven for families driven from their homes by river flooding that has hit states from Arkansas to Louisiana.

Some 26 families have moved into the enclave informally known as Canadaville because their towns were threatened by flooding from the Mississippi River and smaller rivers that spring from it.

The haven created by a Canadian industrialist had a one-time population of around 200 hurricane-displaced residents, but it had dwindled to just a handful by the time people from nearby towns began looking for a place to wait out the flood.

The Mississippi River is swollen by snow melt and heavy spring rains. To take pressure off levees surrounding heavily populated New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the Army Corps of Engineers opened the key Morganza Spillway this week, choosing to flood more rural areas with fewer homes.

All along the Mississippi River − even in areas clear of the Morganza flooding − a small army of engineers, deputies and even inmates is keeping round-the-clock watch at the many floodwalls and earthen levees holding the water back.

They are looking for any droplets that seep through the barriers and any cracks that threaten to turn small leaks into big problems.

Minsky’s 5th Louisiana Levee District is plagued these days by “sand boils,” places where river water has found a way through earthen levees and bubbled up on the dry side like an artesian well. Simmesport mayor Eric Rusk insists they are no reason for alarm.

If the water is clear, as it has been so far, that means the levee is not eroding. Stopping the boil involves ringing it with sandbags.

In New Orleans, workers inspect the levees daily when the water is high to look for potential trouble spots. The levees there − which are not among those that failed along canals after Hurricane Katrina − have survived high water before and will survive this latest test, city officials said.

The opening of the Morganza has stopped the river’s rise at New Orleans, but the relief valve sent water gushing into the mostly rural Atchafalaya River basin.

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