Crest lowered for fifth time

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Water encroaches on the Vidalia Conference Center on the riverfront.

NATCHEZ — Time wasn’t the only force pushing the Mississippi River at Natchez closer to its predicted crest Thursday — the National Weather Service helped again as well.

The NWS lowered the crest again — though only slightly — for the fifth time since the original heart-stopping prediction of 65 feet.

The river is now expected to crest at 62.1 feet Saturday, down from Wednesday’s prediction of 62.5. The NWS is predicting the river will sit at 62.1 through Monday and only drop to 62 Tuesday.

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The river sat at 61.88 feet late Thursday.

Meanwhile, the flood fight — though perhaps just mental for most — waged on in the Miss-Lou.

Camera crews and media from all over the nation gathered on top of the levee at the Vidalia Riverfront to hear from two federal U.S. Department of Agriculture officials Thursday.

The officials toured the area and met with area farmers to discuss the availability of possible emergency assistance.

Concordia Parish Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said the main line levees around the parish are continuing to hold up well, and nothing out of the ordinary is taking place.

“Everything is going great,” he said. “Right now I don’t see any problems at all.”

Ferrington also said the riverfront is also holding up well against the river.

“We still do not have any water inside any of the buildings,” he said.

Ferrington said there have been a few sand boils popping up around the levees in the parish, but there are still crews working around the clock to handle them.

“They are all being taken care of, and there is nothing to worry about,” he said.

A sand boil results when pressure from the river forces water under the levee, displacing soil and forming a hole. Boils can be addressed by building a ring well of sandbags around them, allowing the water pressure to equalize before the boil is plugged.

Water nearly submerges the fence at the U.S. Coast Guard station on River Terminal Road Thursday.

Ferrington said he was optimistic that the levees would continue to hold strong.

“Everything is working great, and we are confident everything is being done to make sure everything is all right,” he said.

In Natchez, parking on Silver Street was temporarily stopped while heavy equipment moved in to remove the top layer of Hesco Bastion barriers.

Baskets were removed completely from in front the Under-the-Hill Saloon.

Officials decided Wednesday that a lower crest prediction and erosion worsened by the weight of the baskets warranted their removal.

Magnolia Grill, which closed its doors Thursday, will reopen at 11 a.m. today using Plan B to accommodate the lack of sewage capabilities.

“(By today,) we will have completed our emergency plumbing for the dishwasher and sinks, (will) have Porta-Johns in place and (will) be serving almost the full menu on disposable wares,” Magnolia Grill owner John Parks said.

The restaurant parking lot will also be accessible.

A spokesperson from the American Red Cross based in Natchez said no shelters have been officially opened in Adams County.

A shelter is on standby at the David Steckler Multipurpose Center on Natchez High School’s campus, spokesperson Kayla Schmidt said.

Hesco baskets line Silver Street in Natchez, serving as a temporary floodwall Thursday.

“(The shelter) is not open, but we’re ready to go and will be prepared if anything were to happen,” she said.