River crest coming this week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — The Mississippi River is expected to crest Thursday at 49.5 feet.

NATCHEZ — The Miss-Lou is on track to escape major water woes, at least this time.

The National Weather Service is predicting the Mississippi River will crest at 49.5 feet Thursday in Natchez.

The river level at the Natchez gauge was 49.12 Monday.

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Though flood stage is 48, high ground in Adams County and a levee in Concordia Parish mean the water doesn’t start causing significant trouble until somewhere just past 50 feet.

In Natchez, the Isle of Capri Casino boat has moved closer and closer inland in recent weeks, City Engineer David Gardner said, but the predicted crest should mean the boat and its low-lying dock on Silver Street are safe from further worries.

In Adams County, flat farmland at Anna’s Bottom is flooded, Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said, but that’s nothing new this time of year.

The water is also encroaching on Carthage Point Road, and sheriff’s deputies have blocked the entrance to the road, Owens said.

In Concordia Parish, several communities not protected by a levee have seen high water for weeks, but residents in these areas are accustomed to the spring waters and prepared for them.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Marty Pope said little rain forecasted for the area and the regions to the north means Thursday’s predicted crest should occur.

The river level has already started dropping in Cairo, Ill., where it is joined by the Ohio River.

“Looking upstream, toward the Ohio Valley, the river is falling fairly nicely through there. The rainfall is not looking excessive, and there is very little snow,” Pope said.

NWS predictions show the river down to 48.8 feet by Saturday.

But a crest now doesn’t mean another spring rise won’t come, Pope said.

“It’s a good sign to get it crested,” he said. “But I always tell everybody that to turn the river back around, all you need is one big storm.”

The Mississippi River typically rises in the spring when snow in the northern states begins melting and spring rains come, but predicting exactly when the rising has passed is no exact science, Pope said.

Last year the river was above flood stage for several weeks in May and did not crest until June.

Owens, too, said he wasn’t comfortable saying river worries were done for the season, but did say the current crest predictions are no cause for concern.

“We can handle what we’ve got in front of us,” he said.