Officials begin final preparations for rising river

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 26, 2008

VIDALIA — With less than a foot to rise before the Mississippi River reaches flood stage, local officials began to take final precautionary measures Tuesday.

The river is expected to reach flood stage when it rises to 48 feet above gauge zero at the Natchez-Vidalia pass today.

The river is expected to crest at 53.5 feet April 7.

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When the river reaches that point, Carthage Point Road will be submerged, and by Thursday will be under a half-foot of water, Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said.

By the time the river crests, the road will be under approximately 5 feet of water, and it was already closed to through traffic Tuesday.

If someone comes upon water covering a road, they should not try to cross it, Owens said.

“You don’t know what might have washed out from under you to begin with, not to mention the currents of the Mississippi River,” Owens said.

The District 5 Levee Board and the U.S. Corps of Engineers are already in a phase I flood fight, which means they conduct patrols on the levees to watch for signs of weaknesses.

A phase I flood flight would be more rightly called flood preparations, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesperson Frank Whorley said.

“I don’t want to give anyone the impression that a major flood is coming, because as predictions stand right now, that’s not the case,” Whorley said.

A phase II flood fight begins when the water approaches the top of the levees, levee board member Reynold Minsky said.

Right now, sand boils are the levee board’s biggest concern, Minsky said.

Sand boils are places where water has forced its way under the levee and the pressure it exerts pushes the soil up through the ground surface until the water can run through.

The way the levee board addresses sand boils is to essentially build wells of sand bags around the boils, which collects the water until the water pressure equalizes and only water instead of soil material brims out of the top, Minsky said.

The fifth Louisiana levee district covers Concordia, East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes.

The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office began increased patrols along the levee roadways Tuesday, especially around the Deer Park and Minorca areas.

“We are providing extra patrols of these areas of the levees where many people are forced to park their vehicles during this high water stage,” Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said.

Maxwell urged those who need to access the levee areas to use extreme caution, but asked those who don’t have any reason to go to those areas to refrain from doing so.

“We are asking area residents to refrain from driving along the levee roads to sightsee as the water rises,” Maxwell said. “These areas simply cannot bear this type of traffic flow problem.”

Minksy and Owens both said they do not expect to see the rising water create any major problems.

“The flooding isn’t going to anywhere near where it was in 1997, when the water passed 56 feet, but it is going to be a complete nuisance,” Owens said.