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Mississippi River at Natchez above flood stage 78 days; Crest at 57 feet April 9

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi River at Natchez has been above the 48-foot flood stage for 78 days as of Wednesday when it was at 54.5 feet and is expected to crest at 57 feet on April 9, a National Weather Service spokesman said.

Last year, the Mississippi River at Natchez was above flood stage for a record 213 days, far surpassing the previous record of 77 days set in 1927, which was eclipsed with Wednesday’s second longest stretch of 78 days, starting Jan. 14.

Last year, the Mississippi River at Natchez also reached its third-highest recorded crest of approximately 57.83 feet on March 11. The second-highest crest was 58 feet set in 1937 and the highest-ever recorded crest at Natchez was 61.95 feet set in 2011.

Marty Pope, senior hydrologist with the NWS in Jackson, said Wednesday that the 16-day rainfall projection does not appear to be pushing the expected crest any higher than 57 feet.

“I think overall it is looking pretty good,” Pope said, adding the 16-day extended rainfall outlook does not appear to be heavy over the Ohio Valley and that most of the snow melt had already occurred. “Right now, looking at the 16-day forecast, does not look like it will be different. The crest will hold for the next 16 days and hold steady.”

Pope, however, did not rule out the possibility of higher-than-projected rainfall, which could push the crest higher such a scenario is not in currently in the forecast.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said he has been looking to the heavens in recent days for a couple of reason, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to keeping his eyes on the rainfall projections.

“I’ve been on the phone talking to people starting to look at things daily,” Craft said of the river stage. “I think there is rain forecast next week in the Missouri and Ohio valleys. Fifty-seven feet is real uncomfortable.”

Craft said the Town of Vidalia has already closed off natural drainage and the flood levels have delayed sewer work on some damage from last year’s extended flood stage.

One section of a concrete on a riverfront walkway behind the Riverview RV Park was damaged by high water, buckling the walkway and eroding some of the riverbank. Craft said he has been communicating it the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on plans to repair the walkway.

“While the river is up, there is nothing we can do,” Craft said of those plans.

Otherwise, Craft said a roadwork contractor delayed work on repairs for a couple of days due to the river levels and concerns about COVID-19 but that roadwork resumed Wednesday.

“We are mobilizing resources, in the form of think tanks, toward what we are going to do if the river comes up and starts threatening areas,” Craft said.