River level nearing flood stage

Published 12:01 am Thursday, March 20, 2008

VIDALIA — With the water level of the Mississippi River standing at 44.96 feet Wednesday afternoon, the river is less than four feet from flood stage.

Flood stage for the river at the Natchez-Vidalia pass is 48 feet above gage zero, and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is forecasting that the river will continue to rise to 45.20 feet today.

If the river does reach flood stage, the Concordia Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness will begin to watch the levees for any sign of weakness, Emergency Preparedness Director Morris White said.

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Until then, however, the normal procedure is for the levee board to determine the weak spots in the level and to watch out for any damage or break-offs that might have occurred, White said.

“If the river reached flood stage, we would watch for any sand boils or those little run-off ditches that might form on the levee,” White said.

Emergency preparedness is watching the water levels, but until it actually hits flood stage they will not initiate any emergency procedures, White said.

As the water inches its way up the banks of the river, some residents might worry about what might happen to the development on the Vidalia riverfront.

The buildings and new construction on the riverfront are well above the flood stage, Riverfront Administrator H.L. Irvin said.

“We are at the 500-year flood level,” Irvin said. “We had to build at that level to get the grants to build the convention center.”

That means that — on average — floodwaters are likely to rise to the convention center’s elevation only every 500 years.

According to corps of engineers, the historic average water level for this time of year is 36 feet above gage zero.

Gage zero is 17.28 feet above the riverbed, which means that the river was actually 62.04 feet deep at its deepest Thursday afternoon.

The highest recorded level the river has ever reached was 58.04 feet on Feb. 2, 1937.