Flood interrupts business

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 27, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT A Vidalia Dock and Storage employee walks to one of the barges outside of the business Thursday afternoon on the Vidalia Riverfront.

NATCHEZ — No one knows, exactly, when post-flood life will get back to normal, but area officials are already eyeing those details.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the water is expected to be off the river walk on the Vidalia riverfront when the river drops to 57.5 feet, which should happen in a maximum of 10 days to two weeks.

By June 21, the river should be around 50.5 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

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In Natchez, J.M. Jones Lumber Company employees are pleased with regulations put into place for barges and tugboats coming up the river.

They can breathe a little easier as they no longer have to worry about the boats’ wakes.

“The Coast Guard has been wonderful,” owner Lee Jones said. “They didn’t start out like that. But now they’ve been wonderful with monitoring; they keep (barges and) boats in the middle of the stream, they don’t let them go more than two miles per hour through the Natchez/Vidalia area and they have to stop running at 7 p.m. to give us more daylight to work.”

Only three barges and tugboats can pass upstream per day, Jones said, whereas in the past, as many as 11 would come by per day, exacerbating the lumber company’s worry.

“It helps us tremendously,” Lee said. “It gives us time for a little bit of the water to go down so more of our old levee is out of the water. I guess one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Under-the-hill, Hesco Bastion barriers are holding back water, but the street won’t be free of water anytime soon.

“We’re not ready to take down Hesco (Bastion) baskets,” City Engineer David Gardner said. “We want to see exactly what the river is going to do, because once you remove them, it’s pretty final. I want the road to be not so saturated when we get heavy equipment to move those baskets.”

The Isle of Capri casino will stay closed until river levels drop to 47 or 48 feet, Gardner said.

“I know that they have to have some time to get things ready,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of clean up with silt and sand.

“I would think by the time the river can get down to the point where workers can get in there and clean it up and get the area safe for pedestrians, then the casino can start loading their chips and money and all that.”

D.A. Biglane Street’s opening also depends on when the casino is back in working order.

“We’ll open it whenever we get the casino open,” Gardner said. “There’s really no reason to have Biglane open unless the casino is open.”

Predicting exactly when Deer Park and Minorca residents can move back home isn’t possible, because it depends on too many uncontrollable factors, Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said. It will have to be after the water gets off the road, he said, which is anticipated to mean when the river is at about 50 feet.

The river stands at 60.32 now, and it isn’t expected to drop to 50 feet until mid June.

Daily CPSO patrols continue in the area.

“(The patrols) won’t stop until they start having people (move back in) down there,” Maxwell said. “We’ll be there to protect everyone’s property as long as it takes. We’ll patrol daily until that time.”