Nightly News | May 18, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: It is witheringly slow, relentless and massive. This flood of 2011 is running behind predictions in terms of when it will crest in each community down river. That means a longer wait for the water to do its damage, and that means people waiting longer to leave their homes. And look at the damage so far, two million acres of farmland flooded in the delta region. That's equal to about 1 percent of all the cropland we have in this country. Crop loss is estimated at 300 million, but it's so early yet. Farmers in Louisiana alone could lose that much. And covering it all again tonight NBC 's Anne Thompson . She's in Butte La Rose , Louisiana . Hey, Anne , good evening.
ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Brian . The flood gauge here at Butte La Rose , which measures some 20 feet, is under water and many of its residents are gone. Peace and tranquility are why people live in Butte La Rose , but today it is too quiet. Most of its 800 residents are gone, ahead of the flood expected to do historic damage.
Ms. MICHELLE McGINNIS: There's no personal belonging that should be more valuable than a life.
THOMPSON: Michelle McGinnis plans to leave Friday, keeping track of the rising water day by day.
Ms. McGINNIS: Now they said it's supposed to crest somewhere between the 23rd and the 25th at 27 feet.
THOMPSON: Today the Atchafalaya River stands just under 21 feet, and half of Michelle 's four level dock is in the Butte La Rose canal.
Ms. McGINNIS: Knowing what happens with hurricanes and knowing what the -- Mother Nature can do with water, you couldn't pay me to stay.
THOMPSON: With more than 10 percent of the gates at the Morganza Spillway now open, no one is quite sure when the water will arrive, frustrating some residents trying to plan their escape.
Mr. TOMMY GIROUARD (Butte La Rose Resident): So it goes to show you they don't know. They don't know what's going to happen.
THOMPSON: The Army Corps of Engineers says its plan is working as expected with an unexpected assist from the drought.
Colonel ED FLEMING (United States Army Corps of Engineers): As the water comes out of the Morganza Spillway , it's just being so sucked up and absorbed so fast by the earth that it's not flowing as fast as we should, which is a good thing.
THOMPSON: In Stephensville , protecting the elementary school is a community effort, but the principal is taking no chances. Today he ended the school year two weeks early.
Mr. DAN RAWLS (Stephensville Elementary Principal): All the equipment's been removed and all the furniture has been removed. So we're trying to save as much of this building as we possibly can.
THOMPSON: Congressman Jeff Landry grew up here and now represents six of the eight threatened parishes.
Representative JEFF LANDRY: We seem to keep taking it on the chin, but we get up and go about our life afterwards.
THOMPSON: Even when there homes are sacrificed to protect others. When the flood arrives, it's expected to stay for weeks and leave damage that could
take years to repair. Brian: Anne Thompson starting us off again from Louisiana tonight. Anne , thanks.