Relay for Life will have to survive high water

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

NATCHEZ — In the past, Relay for Life participants have dealt with poor weather conditions, unsuspected deluges and more, but this year they’re dealing with a whole new beast — the Mississippi River.

The annual walk-a-thon to raise funds for the American Cancer Society typically uses a site on the Vidalia Riverfront.

This year, however, with the steadily climbing river backing up the drains on the riverfront, the road is covered in water and currently closed.

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With Relay for Life only two weeks away, on May 2, uncertainty finds Janis Holder, co-chair of the event.

“The river is a question right now,” Holder said. “We’ve always anticipated rain but not high water.”

The road being underwater is certainly a problem but so is the water being so close to the road, she said.

Holder said with so many children participating in the event, there is fear that in locating so close to the water some may fall into the river.

“The safety concern is the pressing issue right now,” Holder said.

If the river refuses to recede in time, the event will have to be postponed, she said.

Holder said the area they use for the event is already electrically wired and set up for the relay and relocating the event might be too difficult.

“It would be hard to find another place with relay being two weeks (away,)” she said. “Postponement would probably be our only option at this point.”

Besides that, Holder said the riverfront is a great place to have the event.

“The riverfront is our ideal place,” she said. “People love to come to the riverfront, it’s a beautiful place to have the relay.”

Holder said the relay committee will meet with Vidalia city officials next week to devise a plan.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said he’s been working to find out when and how much the river will recede before May 2.

“I’ve been in discussion with the Corps of Engineers to give me some readings on the river,” Copeland said.

He continues to remain hopeful about having the event on time.

“I really believe that we will be able to,” he said.

He said if the river drops two or three feet it will fall below the street drains and the road will no longer be covered in water.

“I’m waiting on the Corps of Engineers to get information from them, and on Monday we’ll make a decision,” Copeland said.

For a group that prides itself in its ability to stay up all night and walk in all conditions this is a frustrating problem, organizers said.

However, co-chair of the event Julia Drews is able to see the silver lining.

“It will also give the teams more time to raise more money,” she said.

At noon next Friday, the team captains will meet at the Comfort Inn in Vidalia.

Drews said the meeting is basically to brief everyone on what to bring to the event, what to expect, tent site information and rules.