Predicted crest moved one day, expected this morning

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 3, 2002

Warren County Sheriff Deputy Bobby Culbertson points toward a home in the Long Lake Road Community halfway under water as he patrols the Long Lake area Saturday.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/02/02] The Mississippi River at Vicksburg is forecasted to crest this morning, a day later than officials had predicted the past several days.

The predicted crest stage of 45.2 feet, however, was not changed.

“It’s pretty much getting ready to crest soon but there are some fluctuations in the river,” a forecaster for the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell said Saturday evening.

The second of the center’s two daily stage updates Saturday said the stage here was 45.0 feet, down from the 45.1 feet, at which it had been estimated about 12 hours earlier. “I’m still saying the same thing,” the forecaster said Saturday evening. “There’s still a little of a rise coming down from Arkansas City. It’s possible it could go up a tenth or two.”

The change in the forecast was the third in two weeks: it had been for 45.5 feet on Friday before it was moved to 45.2 for Saturday. the forecaster said no other crests were expected in the near future.

“I expect it to start falling,” she said of the time after the crest, adding the river was falling in many places north of Vicksburg and she expected it to continue to show that trend after this morning.

On Saturday, as floodwaters continued to cover much of northern Vicksburg and Warren County, sheriff’s deputies continued keeping watch by boat on areas they would normally patrol by car.

“We’re looking for people who don’t belong,” Sheriff Martin Pace said on a routine patrol in a department boat driven by Deputy Bobby Culbertson.

“There are traditional trespassing rules,” Pace said. “Anybody riding through here sightseeing’s going to be moved along.”

A significant number of homes, most of which Pace said are used as weekend or recreational homes, are inaccessible except by boat.

“The property owners are probably as well-versed as anyone on how to adapt to river flooding, because people who own property have been through this before,” Culbertson said.

The river’s biggest rise is often in June, and annual flooding was common for a recent stretch of about seven years until the past three, Culbertson said.

Pace said water began to cover the area behind the Mississippi River levee about two and a half weeks ago, gradually covering healthy-looking corn and soybean fields. From the patrol boat Saturday corn could be seen floating in what he said was about six feet of water. Pace said access to the Vicksburg Harbor was not affected by the flooding.

Cliff Burroughs of Mississippi 465, whose son grows soybeans on the family’s farm there near U.S. 61, said very little of his soybean crop would be salvageable and it was too late to replant the corn lost to the flood.

The water level in Trina and Vic Johnson’s yard next door was about 5 inches from where it would start creeping into their house. On its slow rise over the past several days, they began packing up in preparation to move.

They also began to notice more river wildlife closer to their house. An unusual number of floating fire ant clusters, earthworms and egrets were being spotted near the house, and a garter snake was living in a bush outside its front door, Trina Johnson said.

“We’re in their home now,” she said. “They’ve brought their home to us.”

The Johnsons, two-year residents of the county, said they did not think much about the possibility of flooding when they moved into their home. They later learned, though, that flooding was common in the area and that at one point before they moved in their house had been “under water, with three feet of roof showing.”

“It’s no hidden secret to the people who live here,” Culbertson said. “They know the river’s going to come and go as it pleases. It’s a chance they take.”