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Miss. River expected to rise, won’t affect area

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Two summers ago, the levee that surrounds J.M. Jones Lumber Company was covered in plastic sheets, keeping a massive Mississippi River flood from pouring into the site. Now the levee is covered in grass and vegetation.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Two summers ago, the levee that surrounds J.M. Jones Lumber Company was covered in plastic sheets, keeping a massive Mississippi River flood from pouring into the site. Now the levee is covered in grass and vegetation.

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi River is expected to rise next week, but officials say the high levels are common for this time of year and likely won’t affect many Miss-Lou residents.

The National Weather Service in Jackson issued a flood warning Monday for the river at Natchez from Sunday, May 5, until further notice.

The river is expected to rise and crest above flood stage at 49 feet on the Natchez gauge by Wednesday, May 5. Flood stage at Natchez is 48 feet.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Marty Pope said the sudden rise is common for this time of year, as Natchez will soon get water coming down from the Ohio River Valley.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — A crane at the port drops a load into a truck Monday afternoon.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — A crane at the port drops a load into a truck Monday afternoon.

“As far as the Mississippi River is concerned, it’s not what falls in Natchez that makes an impact, it’s what falls in Arkansas, St. Louis and other areas that are key,” Pope said. “As of now, we’re getting normal spring conditions up north, and the forecasts look fairly substantial looking forward.”

Water begins to enter the former Belwood Country Club near the Natchez-Adams County Port and Carthage Point Road at 47 feet.

Two years ago, the river hit a record level of 61.9 feet on the Natchez gauge.

Veteran flood fighters such as J.M. Jones Lumber owner Lee Jones said the expected river levels don’t have him too concerned just yet.

In preparation for the 2011 flood, J.M. Jones employees worked around the clock to supplement the existing levees around the business to fight the river.

Jones said even though the site didn’t flood, the company lost approximately $1 million in building its own levees and lost revenue.

Jones said the newly bolstered levees give him some piece of mind — at least until the river reaches 54 feet.

“I’ve always said that May 1 is the big day that you really get an idea of what the river is going to do, so it’s kind of early right now,” Jones said. “Because we’ve done so much work, we can handle up to about 54 feet before we have to start doing some work on the inside to make sure everything’s going to hold up.”

Pope said forecasts showing small amounts of rainfall in the north should help when the additional water coming from snow melting begins heading south.

“We should see some amounts from snow melts coming up above Minnesota probably toward the weekend, but that’s also normal,” Pope said. “The best thing to do now is just to keep an eye out on how things look and just watch what’s going on.”

Jones said he’s confident in the levee system surrounding his business, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be watching the river closely in the coming weeks.

“You just don’t know with the river,” Jones said. “We don’t like it being that high, but we’re not too worried about it right now.”

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