Predicted crest lowered to 63.5 feet Saturday

Published 12:45 am Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fayla Guedon | Special to the Democrat — From the Bungee grain elevator to Vidalia Dock and Storage, the entire Vidalia Riverfront is taken over by the swollen Mississippi River.

NATCHEZ — The Miss-Lou received half a foot of good news Saturday, when the National Weather Service reduced the predicted Mississippi River crest to 63.5 feet on May 21.

The river is expected to stand at 61.1 feet today, and Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said so far everything is holding up well.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and waiting to see how high the water gets,” Gardner said.

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He said water is still inching up Silver Street, but the sand-filled Hesco baskets are living up to their expectations and businesses are still operating.

“The baskets are holding great,” Gardner said. “They are doing exactly what we want.”

The city did hit one snag in the wee hours of the morning Saturday when a belt broke at one of the pumps on the lift station at the wastewater treatment plant at approximately 2 a.m. Saturday.

“We had two pumps, one for backup, which held up well for us,” Gardner said. “Some men worked on the pump last night and got it up and going around 3 a.m. It was scary when belt broke, and of course all the parts stores were closed. It seems like those kinds of things always happen at 2 a.m.”

Gardner said another pump would be ordered to be on standby.

Across the river, the Vidalia Riverfront is under approximately eight feet of water at its deepest point, but Mayor Hyram Copeland said he has the utmost confidence in the city’s flood-control system.

The mayor said the riverfront is 80 percent flooded, with approximately 55 acres covered with water from the edge of the riverfront to the bathrooms at the River View RV Park.

“Naturally, there is seepage water coming from the ground, but it’s nothing major,” Copeland said.

He said once the seepage gets to a certain height, pumps automatically engage and clear the water in a matter of minutes.

“Everything is working to our expectations,” Copeland said.

The mayor said he still believes the levees protecting the majority of Concordia Parish will hold, but said again that any potential problems will allow plenty of time for public notification.

Carla Jenkins, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage, is watching water slowly claim her Vidalia Riverfront property. But she is keeping her spirits up, she said.

Jenkins and her team are checking the property by boat.

“We already have water on the back deck,” Jenkins said. “We built a levee on the property next door to get out to the boats, but by (Sunday) or Monday, we’ll have to use a skiff to get to it. I am totally underwater.”

Jenkins said boats are coming by Vidalia Dock and Storage, sending waves splashing into building.

“In 1973 was worst flood the Vidalia dock went through, but it was nowhere near as high as it is now,” Jenkins said. “In ’73, it got half of our yard, but this flood has taken the entire thing, and it’s probably coming in the building now.”

Jenkins said her crew has done an amazing job preparing for and dealing with the flood. She said she is glad they evacuated the facility before the flood reached their doorstep.

“My guys are so devoted,” Jenkins said. “They took care of this place before their owns homes. That’s loyalty.”

Jenkins said if anything, the flood experience has unified the Vidalia community.

“Mayor Copeland loves this town, and he is doing everything he can to make riverfront safe,” Jenkins said.