Rising river unusual for fall

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

[12/8/04]The Mississippi River is defying the odds this year and has mounted a rise since mid-November that will take it to within 4 feet of flood stage at Vicksburg the week before Christmas.

Forecasters at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La., are predicting the river will top out at 39 feet on the Vicksburg gauge on Dec. 20. Flood stage at Vicksburg is 43 feet.

The normal stage for that week is about 16 feet, which means the flow is more than double what is seen on average.

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Wayland Hill of the Hydraulics Division of the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers said frequency charts show the Mississippi rises to its current level at this period in the year about 1.5 percent of the time.

Kai Ross of the forecast center said the prediction is based on water already on the ground and predicted from the storm system that moved through the Vicksburg area early Tuesday and toward the headwaters of the Tennessee, Cumberland and Ohio rivers. If more strong storms develop, he said the predicted level would be adjusted.

While winter rises are not uncommon, spring rises, which include snowmelt, usually create the highest stages. Since it is late in the season, the rising river won’t affect farmers because most crops are already harvested.

The majority of the impact will be on forests and those who hunt lower-lying lands.

Hill said the 39-foot level will flood about 14,000 acres north and south of Vicksburg outside the protection of the Main Line Mississippi River Levees on this side of the river.

Richard Winans, Warren County road manager, said the water level can affect roads around Chickasaw Bayou northwest of downtown, on the east end of Warriors Trail near the Big Black River and some of the roads on Kings Point.

Land along the Mississippi is not the only area affected by rising water. The south Delta sump area behind the Steele’s Bayou and Little Sunflower River will have some flooding, Hill said.

He said the water level behind the Steele Bayou structure will likely reach a level of 87 feet mean sea level about Dec. 21. This water elevation will flood about 202,000 acres in the south Delta affecting more hunting camps.