City prepares for river to reach flood stage

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Isle of Capri Casino workers fill sandbags just south of the casino Monday morning. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Isle of Capri Casino workers fill sandbags just south of the casino Monday morning. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The  Mississippi River at Natchez is projected to reach flood stage today, but current weather models don’t predict it rising much higher.

Flood stage at Natchez is 48 feet on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gauge. The National Weather Service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center is projecting the river will rise to a crest of 49 feet by Sunday.

Crews with the City of Natchez have started sandbagging near the Isle of Capri Casino on Silver Street, which is impacted by rising water at approximately 48.5 feet.

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While the Isle of Capri Casino has in the past moved the casino boat to a location further south on the riverbank during high water, spokeswoman Jill Alexander said Monday the company plans to keep the boat at its normal docking location for the time being and monitor the situation as it develops.

Adams County Supervisor Mike Lazarus said Monday he was closing Carthage Point Road to traffic because the river had risen above the road surface.

The Carthage Point Road closure will later have to be ratified by the entire Board of Supervisors. The closure is effected in part by locking a gate across the roadway.

“Most of the people who have stuff in there have a key to the gate, but it is closed officially until the water goes down,” Lazarus said.

“It is not the people who have camps there (we want to keep out), it is the kids and sightseers. People who are down there all the time know what it is like, but you have people who go down there and tear up the road with their 4-wheel drive. And we certainly don’t want anyone to drown.”

National Weather Service Hydrologist Marty Pope said the flood forecast was revised upward after the Upper Mississippi River received more rainfall than had originally been anticipated.

“The river at Cairo, Ill., has crested, and it is just sort of hanging steady for the last few days, but we are expecting it to begin to fall out fairly rapidly,” he said. “Beginning tomorrow we should start seeing some drops up there, so that will help us out.

Forecasts anticipate another inch to an inch-and-a-half of rainfall over the Ohio River Valley — which feeds into the Mississippi River — in the coming days, Pope said.

“If that is all, it will just fill in there (behind the crest),” he said.

Dam systems in Kentucky will be looking to hold back more water to raise their pool to summer stage, which will also cut out a lot of the water going into the Ohio River, Pope said.

“We are still going to have to watch what happens,” he said. “There is a system coming through mid to late week over the Ohio as well in our area, and we are going to watch how much falls in the Arkansas River drainage area. That one doesn’t look so heavy here, (but) if we get a lot more than an inch-and-a-half, that could affect our crest as well.”

Even at flood stage, the water does not directly impact most of the Miss-Lou.

Thornburg Lake Road in Anna’s Bottom in Northern Adams County starts to take on water at 43 feet, while at 44 feet areas around Lake Mary are inundated and at 45 feet some buildings in the Wilkinson County community of Fort Adams are impacted by the floodwaters. The Concordia Parish areas of Deer Park and Minorca are likewise affected by the high water prior to flood stage.

The former Belwood Country Club near the Natchez-Adams County Port takes on water at 47 feet.

The record high water is 61.9 feet, replacing in 2011 a previous record of 58.04 feet set in 1937.