Gates going up as water rises at City Front

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005

[1/19/05}Workers from the City of Vicksburg should have preparations for high levels on the Mississippi River complete today with the installation of two gates in the floodwall of the Yazoo Diversion Canal.

And even though there will be high water, officials don’t expect it to cause any damage to the 11 murals painted on the wall during the past three years.

Forecasts by the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La., predict the Mississippi will reach a level of 46 feet, 3 feet above flood stage, on the Vicksburg gauge in eight days.

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This morning, the local gauge showed a water level of 41.8 feet up 0.6 foot from Tuesday. Reports from the forecast center also showed the gauge reading at Cairo, Ill., the northern end of the Lower Mississippi, fell 0.4 foot overnight and river levels had fallen as far south as New Madrid, Mo. New Madrid is a little more than 56 miles downstream from Cairo and about 450 miles north of Vicksburg.

“We put in the Crawford Street gate about a month ago on that other rise and never took it out,” said James T. “Bubba” Rainer, head of the city’s Engineering Department. The river crested at 39.3 feet Dec. 21.

Willie McCroy, a supervisor in the city Sewer Department, said crews were scheduled to install the gates at Depot Street and at the Anderson-Tully Co., mill on Levee Street.

The gates are closed by installing large timbers in the openings to keep the water from flooding the area of the city near Levee Street.

McCroy said the gates at Clay and China streets will not have to be installed until forecasts show the river will reach 48 feet on the local gauge, 2 feet more than predicted.

Rainer said water is not likely to reach the murals. The paintings of historic scenes are the city’s newest attractions and are sealed against damage from wind, rain or ice. Additional sealers might be used if it appeared any would be inundated.

The gates at the Steele Bayou Control Structure remained closed today, said Wayland Hill, a member of the hydraulics branch of the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers. That structure and the one at the Little Sunflower River are used to keep water from the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers from backing into the South Delta.

Hill said the water level on the land side of Steele Bayou was 88 feet mean sea level today and 89.6 feet on the river side, preventing 1.6 feet of water from entering the South Delta.

With normal rainfall, he said the land side water level should crest at about 92 feet msl about Feb. 7 when the Yazoo and Mississippi should have dropped enough to reopen the gates.