Flooding put plant employees out of work

Published 7:19 pm Friday, April 18, 2008

More than 1,100 employees of LeTourneau Technologies could remain out of work for weeks due to flooding caused by the swelling Mississippi River.

The workers from the Vicksburg plant were laid off more than a week ago.

“I think we’ll be out of work for about six weeks at the most, but it’s really hard to tell right now,” said employee Edward “Red” Partridge. “If it keeps raining north of us they’re going to keep raising the crest, and it could be even longer.”

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The river stage at Vicksburg was 50.6 feet Thursday. The river is forecast to top out at 51 feet Saturday. Flood stage at the city is 43 feet.

LeTourneau Road is the only road to access LeTourneau Technologies — the site where the company makes offshore oil rigs. It became impassible April 8.

The last time the yard was forced to run on a skeleton crew due to flooding was 1997, when the river topped out at 49.1 feet. The business was closed for about a month.

Partridge said he’s looking at the bright side. He’s been using his time off to enjoy some fishing. Partridge said he is more financially secure these days than they’ve been in during previous layoffs — his home and vehicles are paid for, and the daughter he has with wife, Joyce, is grown. However, Partridge said some of his co-workers are feeling the strain.

“I am concerned for a lot of the younger people I work with who have little ones,” he said. “You can only get up to $210 a week through unemployment, and that doesn’t buy a lot of groceries, medicine and food.”

LeTourneau Marine Service Manager Ronnie Neihaus said all employees will have their old jobs waiting for them should they choose to stick it out during the layoff period.