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1937 flood record now broken

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT As the MIssissippi River rises to unprecedented levels, the flood waters surround the Isle of Capri casino at the bottom of Silver Street in Natchez. The river surpassed the 1937 record of 58.04 feet Wednesday and continues to rise.

NATCHEZ — As the Mississippi River continues to rise to unprecedented levels, Concordia Parish officials are coordinating efforts to ensure that the area’s most vulnerable residents aren’t forgotten in the event of an evacuation.

The river is expected to stand at 59.2 feet this morning, its highest recorded high-water level ever — a level that has pushed water onto the Vidalia Riverfront.

The river is likewise expected to continue rising to 64 feet, a projection that prompted local officials earlier this week to place the parish on level 2 of a four-level evacuation model.

At level 2, residents are encouraged to pre-plan for the possibility of an evacuation by gathering up personal belongings that would be irreplaceable in the event of a flood — things such as important papers or items of sentimental value.

As part of that pre-planning, local municipalities and other government agencies are gathering and cross-referencing lists of the elderly or homebound so they can be located and safely moved should the need for evacuation become a reality, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“I have set up my employees in motion, they are calling each and every senior citizen, and all of those with medical needs, to let them know they will have someone to take care of them,” he said.

Water has started to encroach on the Vidalia Riverfront.

The Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office has requested that anyone who knows a homebound person to contact the CPSO, other law enforcement agencies or other local authorities.

Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said the different government bodies are checking with local senior citizens’ service providers and home health care agencies to get names and addresses.

“If (Hurricane) Katrina taught us one thing, it is that we have to worry about everybody,” he said. “Even if you have the ability to go somewhere, you need to worry about your neighbor, too. And I believe the people in this area are that kind of people.”

The amount of cooperation in the pre-evacuation efforts is not often seen, McGlothin said.

“I know people always say, ‘We have never had a group come together like this,’ but this time I really mean it,” he said.

“Everybody knows what they are supposed to do, and now we just need to make sure the citizens are informed so it goes smoothly. There’s no reason why everybody should leave out of here like it is a house on fire — if we have to leave we will have plenty of warning.”

Adams County Emergency Management Director Stan Owens said six emergency shelters are being prepared in Adams County, but the locations of those shelters will not be released until an evacuation is called.

That’s because people would show up at the shelter as soon as they knew the location, regardless of the evacuation level, Owens said.

The Mississippi River rises around the Adams County port.

Area officials will meet again Friday to discuss levee strength and if the evacuation status should be upgraded to level 3, which is a call for voluntary evacuation.

Meanwhile, the levee system is the subject of 24-hour assessment, and Fifth Levee District President Reynold Minsky said the district is fighting serious sand boils in southern East Carroll Parish and in Tensas Parish.

Sand boils occur when the water pressure from the river displaces soil under the levees. Boils can be effectively fought by building a relief well of sandbags around the boil, causing the water pressure to equalize and stop displacing sand.

“(The boils) are not anything we can’t control, but it is going to take time to get them under control,” he said.

Other sand boils in the fifth district are being effectively managed, Minksy said.

Anyone who is not a part of the levee patrol should stay away from the levees to minimize potential damage.

“(People) need to stay off the levees,” Minsky said. “The cows need to be off the levees. We don’t need any four-wheelers, anything at all, other than foot traffic on the levees.”

The levees aren’t the only areas facing unintentional — or intentional — damage from sightseers.

In Adams County, the board of supervisors was forced to close Anna’s Bottom Road and Bourke Road, as well as access to the former Belwood country club, because of the encroaching floodwaters.

Flood water make a small island for some of the equipment and buildings on Giles Island Wednesday.

“Water is beginning to come across the roads,” Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said. “It is certainly about safety and protecting people’s property who have left the area for the high water.

“People are joyriding through the mud, and it is tearing up the roads. There is no need to go into those areas.

“They are causing damage to the infrastructure by mud riding.”

In other flood related news:

4In Natchez, Silver Street remains open, though City Engineer David Gardner said security guards are directing traffic on the street.

That’s to protect the retaining wall holding back the river, he said.

“They are only letting one car go next to the retaining wall at a time. We are having to let one car go in and park and then let another one out.

“If you are not going to park in the lot at Magnolia Bar and Grill, we ask that you don’t go down there or at least turn around at the first parking lot (on the street) because it creates unnecessary congestion.”

4A tugboat has been docked Under-the-Hill and attached to the Isle of Capri Casino barge by cable in case it unexpectedly moves, Isle of Capri Spokesperson Jill Haynes said.

Operations on the casino barge were idled earlier this week due to the high water.

4Pipe lines at the Natchez wastewater treatment facility that fed into the Mississippi River had to be plugged and redirected to St. Catherine Creek, Gardner said.

Water from the river was backing into the treatment facility through those lines, and Gardner said the redirected lines would address that issue.

Many of the houses along Old River, in inset, are completely surrounded by water.

4To contact authorities with information about an elderly or homebound person who might need assistance in the event of an evacuation, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 318-336-5231, 318-757-3162 or 318- 386-2200.

The Vidalia Police Department’s main phone line is 318-336-5254, and the number for the Ferriday Police Department is 318-757-3606.

-Taylor Aswell contributed to this story.