Nightly News | May 21, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: In the Louisiana bayous tonight, the anxious wait for the swollen Mississippi River to top out is fraying nerves and wearing down those whose homes and livelihoods sit in jeopardy. NBC 's Janet Shamlian is in Stephensville , Louisiana , tonight, where residents are on pins and needles as they wait for word to evacuate. Janet , good evening.
JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: Lester , good evening to you. This is an agonizing wait for people who have been hearing these grim forecasts for several weeks. And now some of those mandatory evacuation orders are being delayed, putting life in communities like this one further on hold. More trouble for the Mississippi . The bulging river closed near Baton Rouge for the second time in a week after three barges sank. High water may have been a factor. Back in the bayous, where the crest has been delayed until next Saturday, it's an anxious waiting game...
Ms. YVONNE BRAUN: I live all day here.
SHAMLIAN: ...one Yvonne Braun knows well. She's lived in Pierre Part 50 years. With her husband gone and her children grown, she's facing the floodwaters alone.
Ms. BRAUN: And five different times that I had high water , I never had water in my house.
SHAMLIAN: What do you think about this time?
Ms. BRAUN: I'm afraid I might.
SHAMLIAN: And yet she and her neighbors are placing their trust in their faith.
Unidentified Man: We gather to pray that we will be protected from flooding.
SHAMLIAN: Each evening they've been gathering at their community park, known as Virgin Island , to recite the rosary. Have prayers been answered, they wonder? Flood levels are being revised downward, in some spots more than two feet lower than feared. A mandatory evacuation for low-lying Butte LaRose is now delayed 48 hours. Merrick Lanclo and his son have already left, but came back today to check on his property.
Mr. MERRICK LANCLO: Most of the time the river is below the elevation of that log. About a month ago I was cutting grass around that log with my mowing machine.
SHAMLIAN: A year after the state's oyster industry was devastated by the gulf oil spill, river floods threaten to sink the business even further. The shellfish thrive at the bottom of coastal bays, and fresh water from the spillways can kill them.
Mr. GREG VOISIN (Gold Band Oysters): Feels like a slow death, I guess, if you would. You know, it's like we have this great hope that everything will live, but we're not naive enough to believe it.
SHAMLIAN: It will still be another week before floodwaters reach their peak here, as the waiting game continues. And also wait for the Mississippi River to reopen at Baton Rouge . The Coast Guard tells NBC News tonight that as soon as those barges that sank yesterday are recovered and cleared from the waterway, the river will reopen to traffic.