River level now rising, Corps says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Even though local skies show no sign of rain, the Mississippi River is on the rise, say officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

&uot;All the water is in the Ohio basin,&uot; said Wayland Hill, civil engineering technician for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg.

On Wednesday, the Mississippi River at Natchez stood at 15.8 feet, up 3.4 feet from the day before. Vicksburg is seeing similar increases, Hill said.

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&uot;We rose 3.5 feet (Tuesday) and 4.2 feet the day before,&uot; he said. &uot;The river is really hopping now.&uot;

Hill said the Corps of Engineers is expecting the river to crest at Natchez on March 6 at 32.5 feet.

Ralph Laukhuff, corporate spokesman for Louisiana Hydroelectric’s Concordia plant, said conditions are improving for the power manufacturer in Vidalia, La.

&uot;Everyday we’re improving. We’re getting closer to average production,&uot; Laukhuff said. &uot;Then, hopefully, it will sustain itself.&uot;

Natchez Port Director Pat Murphy said the rising river is good for everyone. &uot;It will help widen the channel and maybe help with irrigation of farm land in the spring,&uot; he said.

As for barge traffic in and out of the port, the change is coming slowly. &uot;We’re still walking down to the barges, but not as far,&uot; he said.

Despite the rise of the river, conditions are still dry along the Miss-Lou.

The National Weather Service forecast for today calls for partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and south winds at 10 to 15 mph. The extended forecast continues to call for warm, dry weather through Sunday.

The Natchez Fire Department has seen a sharp rise in the number of grass fires because of the dry conditions.

&uot;On our end of it, we’re dealing with people wanting to burn garden spots and burn trash,&uot; said fire Chief Gary Winborne. &uot;Under these conditions, we just have to say don’t do it.&uot;

Coupled with relatively high winds, Winborne said the dry weather has made a dangerous combination for firefighters. &uot;All it takes is one little spark and you’ve got a fire,&uot; he said.

Over the first three days of this week, Natchez firefighters have fought five grass fires.

Commander Stan Owen with the Natchez Fire Department said the pace is hard on the firefighters.

Adams County Civil Defense Director George Souderes said county fire crews have been equally busy these days. &uot;The firefighters are getting worn out,&uot; Souderes said.

Souderes said he is asking home owners in the Miss-Lou to refrain from burning anything until the area receives some rain.