As flooding creeps south, some residents get ready to run|[03/22/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 22, 2008

As the Mississippi River continues to cause widespread flooding in northern states and create steady rises in Vicksburg, some residents are being forced to move to higher ground while others prepare for an evacuation they hope from which to be spared.

“We’ve been getting everything off the ground for the past two days, and moving our larger equipment to our property over the levee,” said Jerry Johnson, owner of the Chotard Landing Resort on the unprotected side of Mississippi 465. “It’s just kind of shut down my business.”

On Friday, the river at Vicksburg rose to 39.1 feet, an increase of 0.7 feet from the previous day. Flood stage at the city is 43 feet. The river is forecast to rise above flood stage Wednesday, and crest at 46 feet on April 5. A flood warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the lower Mississippi River region, including Vicksburg.

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While the actual cresting may be more than a week away, flooding is already visible in many locations north and south of Vicksburg. The Big Black River has spilled out of its banks south of the city. A portion of Chickasaw Road is under water and impassable south of Halls Ferry. Many roads on the unprotected side of the levee off Mississippi 465 are also under water, including Ziegler Road where a row of homes on stilts have become inaccessible by vehicle.

Johnson said the road to access his resort is still dry, but expects it to be flooded by Monday afternoon when the river is predicted to rise to 41.9 feet.

“It’s just about up to my driveway at the store right now,” Johnson said. “Of course, my camp houses are on stilts, but my store isn’t. We’ve got about 6 to 7 more feet coming in total, which I figure will bring at least a foot of water into the store in a week or so.”

Redwood farmer Doug Jeter said he expects all of Chickasaw Road to be under water by Tuesday morning — when the river is forecast to reach flood stage — 43 feet.

“We usually get cut off from the road when the river hits 42 feet,” he said. “It’s not bad yet, but it’s coming slowly.”

Jeter said he and others who have soon-to-be-harvested wheat fields on Chickasaw Road have been in daily contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and they’re holding out hope the crest forecast will be lowered next week.

“We’ve been told to call back on Monday once everything up north has kind of settled down, and we’re hoping the forecast will drop some then,” he said. “We’re getting ready to move stuff out if we have to

Senior Service Hydrologist Marty Pope of the National Weather Service in Jackson said he doesn’t anticipate the forecasted crest in Vicksburg will be reduced.

“The early weather models we’re running right now show the northern states that are experiencing flooding could receive another system carrying heavy rain next week,” he said. “The forecasted crest is a long way out, and even a small amount of rain is going to easily run off because everything is so saturated already.”

City employees in Vicksburg were putting up flood gate panels at the city front flood wall, and the Corps has entered phase one of a two-phased flood fight plan. The Corps will be monitoring area levees daily for any seepage.

Sixteen people have been killed in the flooding that has left thousands of homes flooded in the Midwest.