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Flood stage: Officials don’t expect major flooding of river

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Isle of Capri employees fill sandbags in preparation of high water Monday afternoon outside the casino.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Isle of Capri employees fill sandbags in preparation of high water Monday afternoon outside the casino.

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi River passed the invisible line that marks the difference between “high water” and “flood stage” Monday afternoon.

But local officials said that while they’re keeping an eye on the rising water, they’re not worried.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers at the Mississippi River’s Natchez-Vidalia pass to be at flood stage when water reaches 48 feet on the river gauge. The river is expected to stand at 48.2 feet this morning.

Louisiana Fifth Levee District Commissioner Barry Maxwell said that while the river is high, it’s just a part of the river’s normal spring rise.

“It is just going to hit what they call flood stage, but there is nothing to be concerned about like it was two years ago,” Maxwell said.

In May 2011, the river reached a record height of 61.9 feet on the gauge. The National Weather Service’s flood forecast for the Adams County-Concordia Parish area projects that the river will continue to slowly rise until May 18, reaching 50 feet on the gauge.

According to the NWS, the forecast is based on rainfall that has occurred and on rainfall forecasts.

And that’s why Maxwell said the levee district would continue to be vigilant about the river.

“No one really knows (how much it will rise),” he said. “It all depends on what happens up country in the Ohio River Valley — that is where our water comes from.”

Aside from the low-lying areas of Concordia Parish outside the levee system at Deer Park and Minorca, the river being right at flood stage doesn’t force a lot of lifestyle changes for those who live in the parish.

But at Natchez Under-the-Hill, workers at the Isle of Capri Casino filled sandbags in preparation for the rising water. In previous flood events, the City of Natchez has started sandbagging on Silver Street at approximately 48.5 feet. City Engineer David Gardner could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved Monday the closure of Carthage Point Road — which the road department had shut down Sunday — and Thornburg Lake Road because of water rising over the roadway.

Adams County Road Manager Robbie Dollar said landowners and oil companies with business in those areas would have keys to the gates that block the roadway from other traffic.

Water also begins creeping into the former Belwood Country Club — the future industrial site for KiOR’s alternative fuels plant — at 47 feet.

Portions of the Wilkinson County community of Fort Adams began to be affected at approximately 45 feet.