Nightly News | May 16, 2011
>>> good evening. flood gates were opened this weekend that will intentionally flood thousands of homes for the sake of saving bigger places like baton rouge and new orleans. it was an awful kind of choice for the government to make. then again, this is a record amount of water we're talking about here. epic flooded along the most vital river in the country. by tonight, 11 separate flood gates on the big morganza spillway will be open and flowing. it spreads out from there downstream in louisiana where 25,000 people live in its potential path. over 3 million acres of land, 13,000 structures. in all, the homeowners must now evacuate and wait. the government saved some big cities from catastrophe while launching thousands of personal tragedies across the state. we have two reports on this tonight beginning with anne thompson in melville , louisiana tonight. good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. people here in melville are bracing for this manmade flood. the result of a choice to sacrifice this part of louisiana to spare its biggest cities. that choice in turn has people in these rural communities facing some very difficult options. here in st. landry parish, the atchafalaya river swamped the neighborhood even before the morganza spillway opened. now the mississippi river gushes through to save new orleans and baton rouge from flooding. while in the tiny town of pot springs 15 miles away , residents have few easy choices.
>> gives us trouble every now and then, but you deal with it and keep going.
>> reporter: cal evans and his wife karen are staying put at his mom's house despite an evacuation order.
>> we don't really have anywhere else to go.
>> they already left their own house five miles south of here, with daughter samantha, a brain cancer survivor, and four dogs, they can't go to a shelter and can't afford a hotel.
>> this is the cheapest thing for us to do, stay here until we have to leave, and then spend money. money you know you can't afford to spend.
>> reporter: the emotional cost overwhelmed michelle burrdoff.
>> i don't know what i'm going to do.
>> reporter: this house is everything she owns, and she locked the door and left it. unsure of her future and holding on to her faith.
>> take it day by day . give it to god.
>> reporter: if there is any good news here, it's that the water in the spillway is not rising as fast as expected, giving crews throughout the flood zone more time to shore up defenses, including 1,100 members of the louisiana national guard , some enlisted to finish this new levee in props springs. residents also get an extra day to leave.
>> we want to make sure everybody is out by 5:00.
>> reporter: a choice the national guard hopes people make for their own sake and the guard.
>> they put soldiers at risk, sheriffs as risk, local fire and rescue . it makes the job way harder.
>> reporter: tough choices as time runs short. anne thompson , nbc news, melville , louisiana .