By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER CITY – As flood waters of the Red River rise, Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams are on alert to respond if needed.
According to Louisiana Baptist state Disaster Relief Director Gibbie McMillan, teams originally scheduled to deploy to Oklahoma and Texas are now being kept in Louisiana in case they are activated. McMillan said they could be in areas of the state affected by recent flooding as soon as next week.
“We are paused and waiting to see how much damage will take place then the teams will come in,” McMillan said. “It could be next week before we can begin work. We need people to pray for those affected and be ready to respond when the time comes. We will need places for volunteers to stay when they respond.”
As of Monday, 84 homes in the Shreveport/Bossier City area were flooded, McMillan said. Streets in the area also have seen floodwater, including a small portion of the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier City and near the SciPort museum in Shreveport. Numerous streets also have been closed, including some off and on ramps on and in some sections of lanes on I-220 westbound.
Lane Moore, director of missions for the Northwest Louisiana Baptist Association, said his office had not received any reports of floodwaters reaching churches in his association.
The National Weather Service reported that as of 7 am Wednesday, the Red River was at 37.01 ft. in Shreveport, a .03 decrease from the same time Tuesday. The river should fall below 36 feet by Saturday.
In other areas near the Red River, water levels continue to rise.
The river was at 38.56 ft. in Coushatta at 7 am, up from 38.23 ft. in Coushatta the same time on Tuesday. Flood stage there is 31 ft.
At Grand Ecore at 6:30 am, the Red River was at 41.16 ft., up from 40.68 ft. the same time on Tuesday. A crest of 42.5 ft. expected on Friday evening. Flood stage at Grand Ecore is 33 ft.
And in Alexandria, the Red River was at 34.66 ft. at 7 am, an increase from 34.21 ft on Tuesday at 7 am. A crest there near 38 ft. is expected Sunday. Flood stage in Alexandria is 32 ft.
There are 250 homes affected in Coushatta, with 50 having water in them, according to McMillan. Natchitoches is expecting flooding as well but not certain how many homes will be affected.
Disaster relief blue hat training is taking place today at the Baptist Building in Alexandria in preparation for activation in the coming days.
Though disaster relief teams were not activated as of Thursday afternoon, some Louisiana Baptists have begun helping.
Some disaster relief volunteers spent some of their Tuesday surveying damage along the Red River levee. They used four-wheelers to ride along the levee, from the Caddo Parish line down to Coushatta, a 18-mile journey.
Meanwhile, the Rolling Hills Resort Ministry thrift store in Bossier City assisted a victim of the flooding with clothing. Rolling Hills Director David Abernathy said such action fulfills one of Christ’s commandments.
“When we do it to the least of these, we do it to Him,” Abernathy said. “There will be a great need for this in the weeks to come.”
Governor Bobby Jindal’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has recovery teams assessing damage in Northwest Louisiana. Information gathered will be used to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a request for President Barack Obama to issue a Major Federal Disaster Declaration because of the flooding.
“We want to make sure everything is done to help people and communities impacted by the Red River flooding,” said GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis in a press releas. “The work these assessment teams perform is the first step in determining if federal assistance may be available. GOHSEP wants to make sure this information is gathered as quickly as possible to help secure a presidential disaster declaration.”
GOHSEP, the Louisiana Army National Guard and other state agencies are working with emergency managers in affected communities to mitigate as many problems as possible before the crest of the river. Assessment teams are meeting with leaders in those communities that are impacted by the disaster.
Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, said the community has pulled together and shown tremendous strength to the disaster. He said this is a characteristic of the community, which is part of the district he represents, and that he expects the residents will get through the disaster.
“From our earliest history to the present day, northwest Louisiana has always been known for our resilient spirit,” said Johnson, a member of First Baptist Church in Bossier City. “We face our challenges head on, and we never lose faith. We’ll get through this one, too, and be even stronger when the waters recede. You can count on it.”
Johnson added that Louisianians should be proud of how the state and local agencies and officials have handled the crisis.
“The coordination has been exceptional, and the flow of information constant,” he said. “All of us should be proud of the dedicated public servants who have been working long hours to see this through. Our local churches and volunteer organizations will continue to play a vital role in this as well, as the waters recede. Our area will be recovering from this for quite some time.”
The Baptist Message was in Shreveport/Bossier City on Monday and will provide updates as they are available.