River levels expected to begin falling

Published 12:12 am Tuesday, May 13, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi River will crest today at Natchez seven feet from flood stage, but the river is predicted to fall and maintain a normal flood season for the Miss-Lou.

National Weather Service hydrologist Marty Pope said the river is predicted to crest today at 41.6 feet. Flood stage at Natchez is 48 feet.

River levels will begin falling afterward, Pope said.

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The May 2011 flood, which reached 61.95 feet on the Natchez gauge, was precipitated by a 15- to 20-inch rain event in the Ohio River Valley at roughly the same time as a snowmelt.

Pope said there is snow in the upper reaches of the Arkansas River, but it will not affect Mississippi River levels.

“There is a little bit of a small rise in the upper Mississippi River, but everything is pretty much falling,” he said. “You will continue to see (levels) fall for a while after the crest (today).”

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the river is approximately four-and-a-half feet above its historic normal levels for this time of year.

The river’s high stage for the year thus far is approximately 46 feet in late April. It fell to approximately 36 feet earlier this month before beginning a slow rise.

Pope said the chances of a flood could be increased by just one strong storm system.

“All it takes is one big storm system,” he said. “If a big system decides to sit over a large area and it dumped 8, 10, 12 or 15 inches, it would affect (river flooding.)

“But it will take a really big rainfall situation for that to happen because there are no snow components in that situation now.”

Plants across most of the river valley are in full bloom and are taking water out of the system, lessening the chances of a rise in the river, Pope said.

“Overall, I think we’re in good shape,” he said.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said he has not fielded any calls from residents concerned about this year’s river levels.

Copeland said he believes the city will see an average flood season.

“That could change, as you well know,” he said. “But I think we’re going to be OK this year.”