Rainfall will slow river’s drop

Published 12:02 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Owner of the Comfort Suites in Vidalia, Virgil Jackson, looks out the window of one of his suites Wednesday afternoon on the Vidalia Riverfront.

NATCHEZ — Heavy rainfall in Arkansas and the Ohio River Valley will have an effect on the Mississippi River at Natchez, but it won’t cause a rise, the National Weather Service says.

Areas to the north of Natchez saw rain early this week and again Wednesday night, adding draining water to an already overflowing Mississippi.

That water will have to make its way to Natchez, slowing the river’s fall, NWS Senior Hydrologist Marty Pope said.

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The NWS now predicts the river won’t drop below flood stage at Natchez until June 25.

The river will continue a slow but steady drop over the next five days though, before the additional rainfall moves downriver, dropping approximately two feet, Pope said.

“That’s not bad, considering where we’ve been,” Pope said.

J.M. Jones Lumber Company employees Lee Jones, from left, Milton Garrett, Wyatt Brown and David Jones place sandbags on the levee surrounding the lumber company to protect it from the raised waters of the Mississippi River Wednesday afternoon in Natchez.

The river stood at 60.58 Wednesday night, down from a 61.9 foot crest last Thursday.

The National Weather Service predicts the river will fall below 60 feet Saturday.

Rainfall — less than half an inch — was predicted for the Miss-Lou overnight and into the morning, but that water won’t affect the river, Pope said.

After that weather system clears out this morning, the NWS predicts dry, hot days for the area into next week.

The river at Natchez should drop below the level of the 2008 flood — 57.03 — on June 5.

Natchez City Engineer David Gardner has said that once the water drops below 60 feet, it is feasible to re-supply sewer service to the businesses Under-the-Hill.

Magnolia Grill and the Under-the-Hill Saloon have been open in recent days but without sewer service. The businesses do have water and have been using portable toilets and reworked plumbing systems to stay open.

Gardner said life won’t begin returning to normal until the water level drops below 55 feet.

South of Natchez, two bays at the Morganza Spillway were closed Wednesday. One was closed Tuesday. That leaves 14 of its 125 bays open.

Flood fears already were easing somewhat along the Atchafalaya, where earlier warnings that inhabited areas could be inundated with as much as 28 feet of water had not materialized as of Wednesday.