Mississippi River believed to be cresting today

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 3, 2002

[06/02/02]The Mississippi River is probably at crest today, but people with land “inside” the Steele Bayou Control Structure probably won’t see a crest for weeks.

The Mississippi on the Vicksburg gauge was at 45.4 feet today, up 0.1 foot from Sunday.

The forecast from the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell has varied slightly, between 45.2 and 45.5 feet. Flood stage is 43 feet.

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The center’s Lisa Hall said forecasters had been estimating the gauge reading in the past couple of days, but sent someone to actually read the staff gauge this morning.

“I would say it is probably cresting right now,” Hall said.

She said the reversal, when it starts late Tuesday or Wednesday, would probably be in the range of 0.2 foot in the first 24 hours. After that, the fall should accelerate and the Mississippi may drop by as much as 2.5 feet by the end of the week.

The Upper Mississippi River and the upper Ohio River are falling right now.

A ring levee north of Vicksburg is designed to keep water from the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers from backing onto the vast, flat farmland in the Lower Delta. Normally, rain and seepage water from that area is drained through the gates of the Steele Bayou Control Structure on Mississippi 465.

Because water on the river side is higher, gates are closed now. Wayland Hill of the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers said the water level was at 87.9 feet mean sea level on the land side of the structure this morning and 93.7 feet on the Yazoo River side.

“We’re keeping out 5.8 feet of water,” Hill said.

He said he does not anticipate being able to open the gates at Steele Bayou until about June 16 or June 17. By that time, if there is no further rain, the water on the land side of the structure will crest at about 88 feet. If there is normal rainfall in the next two weeks, the crest could be between 90 feet and 90.5 feet.

The river’s rise is its third this year and very late by comparison. Although few homeowners are affected by 45-foot readings, lots of cropland is. Many farmers, thinking they had escaped flooding this year, planted fields only to see their crops destroyed.