Traffic restricted on Silver Street

Published 12:14 am Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BEN HILLYER/The Natchez Democrat — Employees from the Isle of Capri casino disembark from the boat that is now surrounded by water from the rising Mississippi River Monday morning. A small crew of employees checks the cables holding the boat in position in the river each day. Soon they will have to reach the casino by boat instead of by foot.

NATCHEZ — Little about Silver Street in Natchez looks like it should.

A three-tiered wall of special baskets holding sand cuts off the typical view of historic brick buildings; a five- to six-foot wide, approximately eight-feet deep pool of river water covers the street.

But this is only the beginning, really.

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The depth of the filthy pool will likely rise an unbelievable six more feet.

Yet, the only sense of normalcy Under-the-Hill is no small feat — all the businesses, minus the casino, are open.

Magnolia Bar and Grill and the Under-the-Hill Saloon still serve flood-wary customers.

“I think the (sewer) seals are going to hold, and if we can keep electricity to it, and if our sandbags hold, we should be in good shape,” Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said late Monday.

That may sound like a lot of ifs, but keeping businesses on Silver open during the worst Mississippi River flood ever was likely unthinkable six months ago.

Traffic is restricted on Silver Street and may soon be out of the question soon, Gardner said. But walkers can still take the hike down to see the mighty Mississippi, which stood at 56.8 feet Monday night and is predicted to hit its highest level ever by Wednesday.

D.A. Biglane — the road that leads back up the hill from Silver — is closed to all traffic, vehicle or foot.

Monday, the electrical transmitter that provides power to the Isle of Capri Casino’s boat was removed, allowing city crews to sandbag around an important sewer lift station.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in Jackson is eyeing a weather front that could drop a half an inch to an inch of water on the area Friday.

Localized flash flooding is a possibility, Meteorologist Eric Carpenter said, but it will be temporary.

“We don’t anticipate getting the amount of rainfall that would cause the crest to go higher,” he said.

Gardner said the rainfall’s impact on the Mississippi River and creeks didn’t concern him much, but it would likely cause headaches.

In areas where Hesco Bastion sand bag baskets have been used to keep the river out, they’ll also do the reverse, Gardner said — keep rainwater in.

The city has pumps on standby to handle the situation.