Miss-Lou makes preparations for flooding Mississippi

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — Though experts had predicted it would, the Mississippi River did not reach flood stage Monday.

Flood stage at the Natchez-Vidalia pass is 48 feet above gauge zero, and Monday the river stood at 46.78 feet, up 0.54 feet from Sunday but still 1.22 feet from flood stage.

The National Weather Service’s river forecast service now predicts the river will reach flood stage sometime during the day Wednesday and will continue to rise until it crests at 53.5 feet during the morning of April 5.

Email newsletter signup

The river is predicted to reach 47.20 feet today.

Meanwhile, local authorities are preparing for the rising water.

When the river reaches 50 feet, Silver Street on Natchez-Under-the-Hill will have water on it, Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said.

The last time water rose high enough to reach Silver Street was in 2003.

The Isle of Capri Casino, whose boat is docked off Silver Street, has sandbags on hand as a precautionary measure, Isle of Capri Manager Jack Sours said.

Once water begins to encroach on Silver Street, the city and the casino will begin sandbagging, Gardner said.

“When you sandbag, you can’t just stack them up, so they’re going to take up some of the space in the street,” Gardner said. “Sandbagging can prolong use of Silver Street, but if the crest is at 53 feet it’s just a matter of time before the sandbags are ineffective.”

Whether or not the casino’s boat will have to move due to the rising water depends on several factors, Sours said.

How high the river is going to rise, how long it will stay there and how fast it is rising will determine if the boat will move, he said.

If the move becomes necessary, the boat will move approximately 10 – 15 yards downriver to where the valet parking turnaround for the casino is currently located, Sours said.

“You would just get out where the valet is and walk right on to the boat,” he said.

The city and the casino are working together to make sure everything continues to operate as normally as possible, Sours said.

“The last thing we want to do is to shut down, because that would mean a loss of gaming tax for the city and a loss of revenue for us,” he said.

Just upriver from the Isle of Capri boat on the Natchez riverfront, the paddlewheel the American Queen docks every week during pilgrimage.

Spokesperson for Majestic America Line Vanessa Bloy said the river’s level may affect where the boat docks.

“We would like to keep on schedule, but we’re continually monitoring to see if there are conditions where we may not be able to make a certain port on our sailing,” Bloy said.

Across the river in Vidalia, Mayor Hyram Copeland said the water would have to rise to approximately 75 feet before it threatened the construction or structures on the riverfront.

The record high for the river was at 58.04 feet in 1937.

The former mat field on the riverfront was built up before the current construction on it was permitted.

“A lot of people are naturally worried, but ironically that (the riverfront) is some of the highest ground in the area,” Copeland said.

When the river reaches its flood stage for Concordia Parish, the office of emergency preparedness will patrol the levees to watch for signs of weakness or sand boils.

In the Adams County, water is expected to breach the former Belmont Country Club and Carthage Point Road once it reaches flood stage.

“I rode down Carthage Point Road and the water is right up to it but we have had no real encroachment yet,” Emergency Preparedness Director Stan Owens said. “A lot of farmland and hunting camps are going to be affected.”

Owens said his major concern for those areas is unsecured propane tanks.

“I want to encourage everybody to make sure the tanks are very secure while they can still get into those areas,” Owens said. “We wouldn’t want those propane tanks floating around.”

Owens said he hopes the weather service will revise their predictions to lower a lower crest in the next few days.

But regardless of predictions, it’s only a matter of waiting for the river to reach flood stage, he said.

Sours agreed.

“We’re really just in a waiting game,” he said.