Officials prepare for flood

Published 1:07 am Tuesday, January 5, 2016

NATCHEZ — With the Mississippi River at flood stage in Natchez, city, county and other officials met Monday to discuss road closures and other precautions in preparation for higher water ahead.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford led the meeting at the 361 shelter with representatives the sheriff’s office, police, fire and county road departments, Natchez Public Works, the Natchez-Adams County Port and other agencies.

Bradford said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the responsibilities of the various entities and to consider unforeseen issues that arose during the 2011 flood that could be avoided now.

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One of those issues, Bradford said, was the closure of areas that were not closed for the 2011 flood.

For example, Bourke Road residents were permitted to boat to their houses during the 2011 flood, but Bradford said that would likely not be permitted if the road floods now.

“At some point, we may have to make a hard call to close roads that maybe weren’t closed in 2011 because emergency vehicles could not make it there,” Bradford.

Providence Park near the port will also likely be shut down, Bradford said, because of its proximity to the river.

“We’re trying to keep the kids from getting down there close to the river,” he said.

Officials said residents playing in the river or putting their feet the river is a safety risk. The Natchez Police Department and Adams County Sheriff’s Office were asked to make extra patrols in high-water areas to ensure residents are not near the water.

The river is expected to rise to 59 feet on Jan. 17. If that level is reached it would be the second-highest level in recorded history. The highest level, 61.95 feet on the Natchez gauge, was seen in May 2011.

In anticipation of the rising water, the City of Natchez declared a state of emergency at a specially call meeting Monday. The declaration ensures the city can be reimbursed for expenses during high water.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen also approved a memorandum of understanding with Corrections Corporation of America in which the city will provide materials and the Adams County Correctional Center, which is managed by CCA, will provide labor to make sandbags.

Hayden Kaiser III of Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions is advising Magnolia Bluffs Casino on protecting the Roth Hill Road property from flooding. Kaiser told the board at its meeting he met with a Hesco representative Monday to discuss the use of Hesco baskets and was awaiting approval from the casino to expend the money to place the baskets on the property.

Bradford said after the morning flood meeting Isle of Capri representatives sent word the company would be taking action to protect the lift station and transformer on the property on Silver Street near where the Isle of Capri Casino was formerly docked.

The lift station was raised after the 2011 flood, Natchez Water Works Superintendent Tony Moon told the aldermen Monday, and will remain in use as long as sand is not entering the sewer lines and potentially ruining the pump, which can happen when the river rises.

Moon said the city would also monitor the wastewater that is discharged into the river from the city’s wastewater treatment plant, in case the water needs to be discharged into St. Catherine Creek because of high water in the river. Moon said the city has done that before and will work with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality if it becomes necessary.

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery said he spoke to a business owner Under-the-Hill who was concerned the city has different personnel in place now than it did to handle the 2011 flood. Fortenbery said he assures residents and business owners the city is prepared to handle a flood and will do its best to protect residents and property.

“I told them the city will do everything we can to keep you in business,” Fortenbery said.

Mayor pro tem Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis agreed and said the city’s first consideration is the safety of residents.