1927 flood victim speaks on high water
BATON ROUGE - Dealing with a rising river is rooted in Louisiana's history. For centuries people have had to tackle the challenge of controlling the "uncontrollable".
Eighty-four years ago hundreds were killed and thousands of acres of Louisiana were flooded.
J Burton Leblanc was just ten years old in 1927. He lived in a riverfront house on St. Gabriel lane, in Iberville Parish. He remembers vividly what's been called "The Great Flood."
"Everybody was very tense, I'd say, because you didn't know what was going to happen," said Leblanc.
With water rising, his family was afraid they'd lose their home. There was a fight to tame Mother Nature. The solution to the problem was to reinforce levees. Leblanc remembers men working tirelessly filling sandbags and everyone else pitching in. He said even prisoners were let out of jail to help.
"The women supplied them with food and water and they worked night and day," said Leblanc.
The sandbags, stacked feet atop the levee were barely high enough. Leblanc said the levee was about three inches above the water before it crested. The levee in St. Gabriel, luckily never breached, but it was a close call and a cause for change.
"They decided to move the levees back and enlarge them," said Leblanc.
Everything along the levee was moved back, including his house and school. To move, workers needed electricity so a power line was put up to make it happen. Before that time there wasn't electricity in St. Gabriel. Although Iberville Parish was saved from the mighty Mississippi, other towns weren't, so Leblanc's family stepped in to help. His grandfather was on the Ponchartrain Levee Board, and his dad and uncles got into the house moving business. They helped families along the river.
It took about a year for things to get back to normal. Eighty-four years later, Leblanc compares what's happening now to what happened back then.
"I really reject to calling it a flood you see, because it didn't flood there, that's why we call it high water," said Leblanc.
After the 1927 floods, the U.S. government placed the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of maintaining the levees, and flood control structures were built.