River crest revised downward by one foot

Published 12:06 am Friday, January 8, 2016

VIDALIA — Vidalia city officials closed one access point to the Vidalia Riverfront and restricted a portion of the riverwalk as work to preserve the Riverfront district began Thursday in advance of a rising Mississippi River.

But even as the river rises, predictions have been reduced to a new crest of 58 feet, two feet lower than initially projected.

The National Weather Service’s River Forecast Center for the Lower Mississippi River revised the crest — which had been revised once before, to 59 feet — after observing how much water is entering the Mississippi River system.

Email newsletter signup

“There is less water coming into the main stem of the system, less water coming from the tributaries and systems that feed into the Mississippi,” NWS Meteorologist David Cox said. “Overall, it’s not much change, but even a foot or so makes a difference.”

In Vidalia, that difference is significant — 58 feet is the level at which the water starts to encroach on the Riverfront, and a foot less of water could mean a much easier flood fight.

As the city prepared for the coming crest, the southern entrance to the riverfront from John Dale Drive was closed to through traffic Thursday as workers started installing Hesco baskets — which will form a mini levee around the water well buildings on the Riverfront — as part of the city’s flood control measures.

The northern entrances from Riverside Drive remained open, and businesses on the Riverfront have continued operations.

The city also restricted access on the northern side of the riverwalk, from the Comfort Suites to the boat ramp, with officials citing safety concerns.

Outside the riverfront, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office said effective Thursday afternoon no driving on any levee if the roadway is not paved. The Louisiana National Guard has joined in patrols to ensure the levee system is sound as the river rises, and is set to begin 24-hour a day patrols today.

And while public crews work to ensure what can be physically done to protect threatened areas is, a coalition of Miss-Lou elected and spiritual leaders plans to gather Sunday to make an appeal to a higher power.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, a prayer gathering of civic, business and church leaders from Concordia, Catahoula, Tensas parishes, Natchez, Adams County and surrounding areas will be at the Vidalia Convention Center, where organizers said they will come together “in unity to seek God’s protection from a natural disaster by flooding.”

The revised crest prediction, if correct, means the river will be at its third highest recorded level in history.

The highest —61.95 feet — was recorded in May 2011, while the second highest, 58.04 feet, happened in February 1937.

The river is expected to be at 52.7 at 6 a.m. today.