Be adults, don’t spread rumors now

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Concordia Parish leaders are fighting a major battle against the Mississippi River, but they need muzzles, not buckets.

A trip to the dollar store, gas station or empty storage bin aisle at Walmart would incite panic in most anyone, if they believed what they heard, anyway.

But few if any of the rumors moving through town faster than rising Mississippi River waters ever will actually are true.

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No mandatory evacuation has been ordered by anyone, much less the National Guard.

The levee has not broken — in two places — north of town.

The predicted flood stage is not going up to 75 feet.

Nursing homes were not told to move all their patients within two hours’ time.

There is no need to take your money out of Vidalia banks and move it to higher ground.

The list could go on and on.

Both Mayor Hyram Copeland and Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said Tuesday they had received phone calls from scared residents in the middle of the night.

Maxwell said one elderly woman was in tears, pleading for help because she believed rushing floodwaters were headed her way.

Life in a small town is full of rumors. Toss in a natural disaster that simply can’t be controlled by man, and the gift of gab takes control.

Everyone, it seems, wants to be the bearer of news, true or not.

But the result is unnecessary fear and panic.

Children came home from school Tuesday worried and fearful. Adults who should know better believe too much of what they hear on the street.

The advent of social media and texting made misinformation dissemination easier, too.

Copeland, Maxwell and Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin all pleaded with residents Tuesday to ignore the rumor mill.

Seek out facts from reliable sources, but don’t panic with the latest water cooler worry.

Is a bit of healthy worrying in order? Sure. The time to prepare is now.

It is possible that some portions of Vidalia could see standing water.

But the truth is, no one has ever seen a 65-foot crest in the area, so no one knows what is going to happen.

Prepare, but don’t panic. It’s a good message, and one that is needed in Vidalia.

Vidalia Alderwoman Mo Saunders said it best Tuesday when responding to worries about moving belongings to higher ground.

“If it will make you feel better and sleep better at night, then do it,” she said. “We don’t think it’s going to be a problem, but you only have to move it back.”

Let’s not make this situation worse than it is by adding fuel to the rumor fire.

Unless you’ve read or heard it from a source you absolutely know to be reliable, then don’t repeat it.

As always, this newspaper and our online counterpart will work to keep everyone as up-to-date as possible, particularly about critical facts like river forecasts and other items that may frequently change.

Typically, we can get the meat of the matter posted online within a few minutes after we confirm it, and we won’t publish something we haven’t confirmed.

The coming days may be trying for all of us. Let’s face them as a community with the truth in mind.

Local leaders are doing their best, and no elected official, regardless of whether you like them or not, in the Miss-Lou wants to see area residents harmed.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or