Residents leave Old River as Natchez officials eye Silver Street

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

Barney Brooks has a folded-up copy of the predicted river stages in the front pocket of his overalls.

Brooks, who has a camp house on Old River in Concordia Parish, knows he’ll soon be using boat transportation to get where he’s going. But for Brooks and the other residents of stilted houses on Minorca Road, flooding isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t rare.

Yet the group of men gathered on the nearly flooded street Thursday were worried.

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&uot;It’s too early in the year for this,&uot; Brooks said. &uot;When the June rise gets here we are going to be in trouble, and they might be in trouble on the other side of levee.&uot;

Officials and residents on both sides of the Mississippi River have been watching the river stages since early in the month, anticipating an above flood stage crest later in the month.

As of Thursday, the National Weather Service predicted the river would rise above the 48-foot flood stage Wednesday and crest Jan. 31 at 53.5 feet. Earlier this week, the river was forecast to crest at just 51 feet.

With one branch of Minorca Road already covered in water, neighbors from out of state packing up for higher ground and the day’s predictions in hand, Brooks said he thought Minorca Road would be impassable by today.

&uot;You boat in or you won’t come in,&uot; he said. &uot;This is the first time in 14 years I’ve been here that it’s been like this at this time of year.&uot;

Brooks remembers the flood of 1997 when the river was at 52.5 and the stilted houses were covered in water.

&uot;This is going to be worse if this doesn’t leave here,&uot; he said.

In Natchez, City Engineer David Gardner will meet today with Isle of Capri officials to discuss their response to the Mississippi River’s rising levels.

&uot;We’re pro-business, and we’ll do everything to make sure streets stay open, but safety is more important,&uot; Gardner said Thursday.

&uot;I’ve got a meeting with Isle officials to go over Š when we start closing Silver Street to traffic, if we do, Š and if we want to sandbag,&uot; Gardner said. &uot;It depends on river levels and what the forecast is (today).&uot;

Gardner said that at 53.5 feet, not only would Silver Street be closed, but possibly D.A. Biglane as well, &uot;because that turnaround would be underwater.&uot;

In March 1997, when Lady Luck owned the casino, city officials closed the street for safety reasons.

In June 2002, the river came close to threatening Silver Street, but Isle of Capri and Natchez officials worked together to sandbag the area. The river stage hit 51.3 at that time.