BUTTE LAROSE, La. — The final wave of holdouts has mostly packed up and left this Louisiana town as water from the swollen Atchafalaya River has inched toward their homes, with their frustration and hope painted on signs posted outside.
"Nothing left worth stealing," read one. "Stay strong. Believe," urged another. "Our hearts are broken, but our spirits are not. We will come HOME," are the words Kip and Gwen Bacquet spray-painted on the plastic liner that covers the entire first floor of their house.
Most had left Butte LaRose days earlier amid high tension as the water continued its trek toward the area, about 45 miles west of Baton Rouge.
The Army Corps of Engineers partially opened the Mississippi River's Morganza floodway on May 14 to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans from catastrophic flooding, but the water it was diverting from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya Basin still hadn't reached the town nearly a week later.
While Mississippi communities that line their namesake river were waiting for floodwaters to recede Saturday, Louisiana residents in the path of diverted waters were enduring an agonizing wait.
In St. Martin's Parish, La., an evacuation was ordered to take effect Saturday, only to be pushed back at least two days after officials said the river would crest May 27 at a lower level than previously thought.
The delayed evacuation in St. Martin's Parish is likely to be a source of both optimism and further frustration for residents who have heard the same grim forecast for days on end. Once the water comes, residents may not be able to return for weeks. They will have to wait until Monday for officials to decide whether to reinstate the evacuation order.
"It's probably a blessing for some because maybe some people who didn't have time to do additional sandbagging will now have more time," said Maj. Ginny Higgins, a spokeswoman for the St. Martin's Parish Sheriff's Office.
It was a different story in Vicksburg, Miss., where residents wanted to know when the water would finally recede. On Saturday, Chris Lynn fired up his small aluminum boat and traveled about a mile to check out his father's house. The home sits on a 15-foot mound of dirt on the Mississippi River's banks, much like an island in the murky water.
Sections of Vicksburg that have been flooded for weeks remained swamped Saturday with water higher than some mailboxes and street signs, and up to the roofs on some homes.
Even though the Mississippi River is slowly falling, it is still so high that water is backing up into its tributaries, especially the Yazoo River.