Mississippians waiting for river to reach crest

Published 12:24 am Tuesday, May 17, 2011

JACKSON (AP) — The Mississippi River is now forecast to crest a half-foot lower and a day later than first expected at Greenville, a city that has been spared the devastating flooding that has hit other areas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the river will crest at Greenville sometime Tuesday at 64.5 feet, about a foot below the record set in 1927 when the town was inundated with water after a levee broke.

“Everyone is excited about the crest, but they’re also nervous. They look at the river and think, ‘That could be 20 feet of water on us,”’ Peter Nimrod, chief engineer of the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners, said Monday. “They’ll be very happy when it crests and begins to go down.”

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Greenville was hit hard by the 1927 flood, but the levees now are bigger and stronger. This time flooding was mostly limited to Greenville’s lowest-lying areas, like around Lake Ferguson where people lived on the inside of the levee.

“Levees are fine. We’ve had more seepage because the stage is higher,” said Bobby Thompson, assistant engineer for the Mississippi Levee Board. “We’re dealing with little issues as they come.”

That doesn’t mean the area is out of danger. The water is expected to recede slowly like it has been doing upriver, including at Helena, Ark., and Tunica, Miss., where the river recently crested. It could take weeks for some areas to dry out. And there’s still a lot of pressure on the levee system.

Downriver, the Mississippi River is projected to crest Thursday at Vicksburg at 57.5 feet, more than a foot above the 1927 record there. In Natchez, it’s expected to crest Saturday at 63 feet, down a half-foot than earlier predictions, but almost five feet above a record set in 1937.

The area from Vicksburg northeast to Yazoo City, along the Yazoo River, has seen some of the worst flooding in Mississippi. The Yazoo County airport, a small general aviation facility, is mostly underwater. Water has also covered a large portion of the property near the Vicksburg airport, another small facility.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said there are more than 4,200 people displaced in Mississippi due to flooding and almost half of those are in Vicksburg and surrounding areas in Warren County.

The flooding further inland from the river is mainly due to the Yazoo River backing up because the Mississippi is so high water can’t dump into it. Many people in the area spent thousands of dollars to build levees around houses, grain silos and even catfish farms. Some of those levees are holding, but others are not, meaning some residents will find their hopes dashed when they return home.

About 180 National Guardsmen are assisting county and state agencies in Warren, Yazoo, Humphreys, Issaquena, and Sharkey counties.


Associated Press writer Shelia Byrd contributed to this report from Jackson.