River not giving up; moves sandbags

Published 1:58 am Thursday, April 24, 2008

VIDALIA — When employees at Riverpark Medical Center arrived for work Wednesday morning, they were greeted with the sight of City of Vidalia workers working furiously to pump what appeared to be a small lake back into the Mississippi River.

At some point during the early morning hours Wednesday, the pressure from the Mississippi River actually moved sandbags placed over the drains on the riverfront. The sandbags were placed on the drains several weeks ago to keep the Mississippi River water from backing into the street.

“The sandbags started floating when the pressure from the river pushed them up,” Vidalia Street Department Superintendent Lee Staggs said. “The pressure on the drainage is so great because we’re holding back about four feet of pressure.”

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At that same time, one of the pumps that has been removing seepage water from Front Street had stopped working, so the water just kept pooling.

The water spread, but it didn’t get much deeper than the street, Riverpark Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Marci McGraw said.

“It was a little deeper than we were used to seeing it, and it came up further than it had ever been, but it wasn’t bad,” McGraw said. “A few people were intimidated by it, but no cars had problems (getting to the Riverpark parking lot).”

When Staggs arrived on the scene at 5:30 a.m., he located the problem and moved a couple of the pumps around to begin the removal of the water.

By midday, the lake was largely gone and the seepage water standing in the streets was at its pre-sandbag breach levels.

“You can never predict what the river is going to do,” Staggs said.

The river began its crest Tuesday, and is expected to stand at approximately 56.9 feet until Monday, at which time the National Weather Service has predicted it will fall to approximately 56.8 feet.