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Business continues as floodwaters reach third-highest crest


VIDALIA — Even though one could hear the sound of the waves lapping, Monday afternoon was no day at the beach at Vidalia Dock & Storage.

As the Mississippi River crested at approximately 57.83 feet on the Natchez gauge, waves from passing barges crashed underneath the office that is built up on piers.

Except for a small raised path built out of crushed gravel, floodwaters surrounded the office on the Vidalia Riverfront.

Monday’s crest was just shy of the projected 58 feet and is the third-highest flood recorded on the Natchez gauge.

“We are still open,” vice president Sarah Calhoun said, even though the bathroom facilities and hot water have been cut off.

Restroom facilities are available a short walk away at another building on the site.

From inside the building workers can hear the water lapping just inches below the floor joists.

Even still, conditions are much better than 2011 when floodwaters rose 6 inches to a foot higher than the floor. At 61.95 feet, the May 2011 flood was the highest flood on record.

“Four days before the water crested, I opened the front door and the floor was buckled,” Owner Carla Jenkins said. “There was a baby bass swimming in my office.”

Thankfully, this year workers have a  dry place from which to work, despite the ever-present sound of water flowing under the building.

“With the water lapping, no bathroom and no hot water, it makes for a miserable day,” Jenkins said. “But we are still open.”

The floodwaters that cover most of the property haven’t kept two of three businesses from being open, Jenkins said. Towing services have dropped to almost nothing, but the dry-dock repair service and the gravel and crushed limestone service continues, Jenkins said.

Fifth Louisiana Levee District Board member Barry Maxwell said Monday’s crest did not pose any major additional problems for the levee district.

“We had a few more sand boils here and there but that’s typical,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he anticipates the river will drop off soon.

“As far as I know everything is on schedule for it to start dropping,” Maxwell said. “It’s going to stay, at this level right now, and should start dropping a 10th to a half a foot a day.”

Guy Murray, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for Concordia Parish, said the crest went pretty well from his perspective, too.

“I think it should be here three or four days,” Murray said, “then fall out a foot to a foot and a half a day.”

Calhoun said flooding has become too common for the area and she has an opinion as to why that is.

“People are not doing what they should be doing to control the water,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun said she wonders why the various control structures are not being better managed to control the flow of the water in order to accommodate the industries on the river.

“The second the water gets high in Baton Rouge, they say, ‘Uh oh,  we have to open the (Bonnet Carré) Spillway. Instead you have already flooded out 10 river towns on the way down.”

Jenkins agrees and said she hopes something can be done to help lessen future floods.

Jenkins said flooding used to be a rarity along the riverfront, so much so that she could remember specific floods before the last 10 years.

“Now there have been so many of them, I have to sit down to think what years we didn’t have a flood,” Jenkins said.


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