High river causing concerns about infrastructure

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2019


NATCHEZ — The Mississippi River has been holding steady at approximately 54 feet since it reached it’s third highest recorded crest at 57.83 feet on March 12, but forecasters say the river is expected to rise again in coming weeks.

Alan Campbell, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the river is expected to rise very slowly over the next two weeks and is already within a foot of its anticipated crest of 55 feet.

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Just before noon Tuesday, the river reached 54.1 feet at Natchez, Campbell said.

“It’s nearly steady,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be a very slow rise. … We’re still looking for the river to crest at 55 feet on Tuesday, May 7 … and we’re already within a foot of that cresting point.”

Campbell said rainfall in the north and other basins that feed into the Mississippi River, such as the Ohio River Valley, are the source of the steady rise.

Vidalia officials said the prolonged flood stage has caused significant damage to underground infrastructure and roads due to water seepage beneath the ground’s surface.

“We’ve had several roads with severe damage to them and some of our sewage systems have been compromised,” said Buz Craft, Vidalia mayor. “At a minimum, we have had $300,000 to probably half a million worth of infrastructure work done just on our sewage system, and we’ve identified roads that we’re going to have to resurface. I just continue to ask people to be patient. … This is record setting as far as how high this river has been for so long. … Usually, we’ll have a high river for three months and it would recede.”

Guy Murray, director of the Concordia Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, also said the prolonged flood is unprecedented.

“The river has been up since October,” Murray said. “It has been abnormally high for about six months now … which is the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived here my whole life.”

Murray said he had little concern regarding the stability of levees, adding that he and other officials have remained in constant communication with the Fifth Louisiana Levee District Board of Directors and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

“They’ve been patrolling the levees 24 hours a day every day for a few months now,” Murray said. “The levees don’t concern me at all. I have a very high comfort level with the Corp of Engineers and what they do.”