9:29 PM EDT, May 5, 2011
ANGOLA PRISON, LOUISIANA
Preparations are underway as the Mississippi River rises near Angola Prison. The water is expected to swell to historic high levels.
The prisoners are working hard filling up sand bags by the thousands. They are preparing for the Mississippi swelling to the highest levels in the prison's history.
“This is a massive job. There`s over 1,500 employees and over 5,000 inmates, and this prison is estimated to be worth to be $600-700 million, if you had to replace it,” said Angola State Prison Warden Burl Cain.
While a precautionary, first phase evacuation starts Monday for sick and weaker elderly prisoners, the warden doesn't plan to evacuate the entire prison population, maybe only half. Meanwhile, some roads have also started to flood on the property.
“Right here we’re in pretty good shape we think we can weather the storm. We’re not going to panic and run away and give away this farm. We’re the same people who fought the `97 flood. I was there then. We’re very experienced flood fighters, and I have more resources than the Corps has, because I have all these inmates,” Cain said.
The river is at 55 feet, and in 2-1/2 weeks it's expected to rise eleven feet. At the top of the levee, it's 70 feet. One camp is at the foot of the levee.
“And if the water came in it would be inundated, as would all of Angola, because it’s a big bowl with a 12 mile levee around the whole farm, and so there is no way to get water out of here other than evaporate or pump it out or let it run for the levee,” Cain said.
For now the warden is praying the levees hold up and the prison is saved.
On Friday, the warden says Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman is planning to send 10 buses for evacuations. Other sheriff's offices across the state are also helping.