River water comes up drains on Riverfront

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2008

VIDALIA — With the flooded Mississippi River backing up the drains along the Vidalia Riverfront, the city now has to pump water out of the street.

Placing sandbags around the drains has slowed the backflow, which has left approximately eight to 10 inches of water standing in front of the Promise Hospital construction site.

“Our drains normally flow from the street to the river, and they have a back flap to keep the river from flowing back into them,” Vidalia Street Department Director Lee Staggs said. “I guess right now that flap isn’t working.”

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Without the city’s intervention, when the river rises to the level of the street, the street will fill with water.

The only water that is on the street right now is water that has seeped through the sandbags and a small amount of rainwater, Staggs said.

“We don’t expect a lot of rain to come through, and it’s not like we’re going to be recycling water fresh from the river back into it,” he said.

At the present, the street department has dug out an area and dropped something akin to a concrete kiddie pool — approximately three by five feet — for the water to drain into.

From there, the water is pumped back into the river.

Though the street might have to be eventually closed, Staggs said he doesn’t expect it will come to that.

More pressing is the safety issue presented by people who want to come and see the river firsthand.

“A lot of people want to come and sightsee, but they don’t want to stay on the riverwalk,” Staggs said. “They want to walk right out to the edge of the water, and that’s very dangerous. This is the Mississippi River we’re dealing with, and if it gets too bad we’ll shut down the whole riverwalk to make sure it stays safe.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Corps of Engineers will conduct helicopter flights along the levees today and Sunday, starting at the Arkansas border to the Old River lock and dam structure, Levee Board President Reynold Minsky said.

“They’ll be going over those levees real slow to check them out,” Minsky said.

The river, which stands at approximately 55 feet today, is expected to crest at 56.5 feet April 20.