The only thing rising faster than the Mississippi River in much of eastern Louisiana is anxiety.
With government officials saying it could rival the Great Flood of 1927, residents worry that the river -- which is already past flood stage and is rising one foot per day -- will overwhelm the levee system that protects the pan-flat river delta.
The Corps of Engineers said they expect the river levees to hold.
But if they break, water could make it all the way to the Monroe airport, state officials said.
Rick Foster, director of the Tensas Parish Office of Homeland Security, said rumors are adding to the anxiety.
"We've spent more time fighting rumors than we have the flood," he said Thursday.
Officials said they are getting dozens of calls every day from people who have heard rumors the levees have been breached. They said there have been no breaches.
Major sandbagging efforts were underway Thursday in Vidalia, across the Mississippi River from Natchez, Miss. State officials described that town as "an area of great concern."
The biggest concern was protecting a riverfront convention center, water wells and a sewage lift station. Hesco baskets are being used in lieu of traditional sandbags to make a new levee. Those baskets, which are made of wire mesh and fabric and are widely used by the military to provide bulletproof buffers around outposts, can be filled three times faster than sandbags. The baskets were also used to block some of the Gulf Oil spill from the BP disaster. Jail inmates have been brought in and are filling the equivalent of 5,000 sandbags a day.
The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 57.5 feet in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 18. That would be the highest level on record. The 1927 crest was 56.2 feet.
In Vidalia, the river isn't expected to crest until May 22. It is already 5 feet above flood stage and rising.
The National Weather Service said matters could be made worse because more rainfall is expected across Arkansas and north to the Ohio River Valley, sending that water downstream, too.
Worries about flooding are occurring all over the eastern part of Louisiana.
In East Carroll Parish northeast of Monroe, sandbagging is underway to reinforce levees.
A new bridge providing a direct link between St. Francisville and New Roads opened Thursday, even though finishing work still needs to be done, because of high water on the Mississippi. The St. Francisville-New Roads ferry will shut down permanently.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday that people in his state who live in low-lying areas need to plan now to evacuate.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said sections of levees in Louisiana have been topped three times and held.
But the words Corps of Engineers and levees together don't lead to confidence in a lot of people: They remember how the levees in New Orleans were breached by Hurricane Katrina, flooding the city.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered a partial evacuation of Angola State Penitentiary, starting on Monday. Inmates would be moved to other state prisons, including the ones in Northwest Louisiana. A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections would not provide specifics on where they inmates are going until they are in place.