Rising concerns: officials preparing for flooding as higher crest predicted

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017


VIDALIA — Natchez and Vidalia area officials are preparing in case the Mississippi River flood projections continue to increase.

The river is now expected to crest May 23 at 54.5 feet, which is 6.5 feet above the flood level of 48. The previous projection called for a crest of 52.5 feet on Friday.

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Vidalia Aldermen at a special meeting Tuesday voted to proclaim a local declaration of emergency and also gave Mayor Buz Craft authority to make emergency purchases.

If projections stay at 54.5 feet, Craft said the big concerns would be keeping water out of the streets on the riverfront and also prevent floodwater contaminating a freshwater well.

Craft said the town is working on getting bids on HESCO baskets to keep water from getting to the well. The baskets would be placed along the riverfront boat ramps.

Craft said at 54.5 feet, the water would be seven-tenths of a foot from getting into the water well.

Craft said the town has spent approximately $8,000 on air bladders to go into drains to keep the water from going into the streets.

The town has installed water pumps on the riverfront to pump water back into the river in case it rains, Craft said.

“This is strictly preemptive to make sure we don’t have an issue,” Craft said. “Right now we feel like it is all right.

“We are keeping a close eye on it and watching what happens up the river as far as weather goes. We will keep the public informed as we go.”

In case the National Weather Service crest projections increase, Craft said the town is getting bids on additional HESCO baskets and other materials to purchase as needed.

Engineer Guy Murray said he did not believe at the current crest the state would reach the threshold to declare a state of emergency. Murray said if the state does not declare an emergency, access to FEMA funds will not potentially be activated and the town would not be reimbursed for expenses.

Natchez Public Works Superintendent Justin Dollar said as soon as today the city might have to close Silver Street just past Magnolia Grill. Dollar said Silver Street would be rerouted into a two-lane road coming down from Broadway Street so Natchez Under-the-Hill businesses could remain open.

Dollar said at the estimated crest of 54.5 feet, Silver Street should not have to be completely closed.

Dollar said D.A. Biglane Street would be closed just past the Rosalie Mansion parking lot once water crosses both lanes of Silver Street.

Cooper Street, which is at the end of Learneds Mill Road, could also be closed as early as today, Dollar said.

“We are going to try to keep (Silver and Cooper) streets open as long as possible,” Dollar said. “We want to cause the least amount of problems for businesses on Silver Street and the residents on Cooper Street.”

The Concordia Parish Police Jury Tuesday also adopted a state of emergency.

Juror President Whest Shirley said the parish would suggest closing the levees to traffic to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

In Adams County, Supervisor President Mike Lazarus said Thornburg Lake Road at Anna’s Bottom has been closed. The gate had previously been locked on Carthage Point Road.