River levels headed back up

Published 12:44 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

VIDALIA — After several weeks of steadily dropping following near-record high water, the Mississippi River is expected to again rise over the next week.

Expected to stand at 48.9 feet this morning, the river will likely rise a foot over the course of the next week to 10 days, National Weather Service hydro-meteorologist Carolyn Bryant said.

“Last week there was a lot of heavy rain over the Ohio River Valley and the upper Mississippi Valley, and so that is causing the entire lower Mississippi River to have a small rise,” Bryant said. “All the way from Cairo, Ill., down looks like it may have a rise of a foot to a foot-and-a-half.”

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Flood stage at the Natchez-Vidalia pass is 48 feet above gauge zero, and the river has not been below that point since the morning of March 26.

The rise in water is not a reason for any real concern, Fifth Levee District President Reynold Minsky said.

“There are still some sand boils out there boiling out sand, and there is still going to be some seepage water until the river falls (below flood stage),” Minsky said.

After the river falls to more normal levels, the board will begin cleaning up some of the mess left from putting sandbags out, but they won’t remove the sandbags until June or July.

“You never know what will happen with the river in May or June,” Minsky said.

Once the water recedes to a point where levee work can be done, the board is going to begin raising levees in Madison Parish, near Vidalia and in Tensas Parish, Minsky said.

The river crested at 57 feet — the record is 58.4 feet, set in 1937 — over several days, beginning April 22.

According to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the historic norm for the river at this time of year is 36 feet above gauge zero.