Crest moved up to 48 on Tuesday|[04/03/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2008

The already-flooding Mississippi River is now forecast to top out at a higher level in Vicksburg than earlier predictions of 46.5 feet by the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. The crest date, too, has been pushed back for the third time this week, due to severe thunderstorms expected to move over the central United States beginning today.

The forecast today has the river cresting at 48 feet on Tuesday, April 8.

Carrying up to 6 inches of rain, a weather front is expected to move over northern Texas, eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas later today. By Friday evening, the storms are forecast to move through Arkansas, northern Mississippi, southern Missiouri and Tennessee.

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The river was at 46.1 feet, which is 3.1 feet above flood stage at 7 a.m. on the Vicksburg gauge today, surging 0.7 feet in 24 hours. Slower rises are expected until the river tops out.

By some calculations, the one-day increase was 0.6 feet due to a misreported stage of 45.4 feet.

“When you have that amount of rain falling on areas that are cresting, it really puts added pressure on the river and just pumps it up immediately,” said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Jackson. “I think the best people in Vicksburg can hope for is that this rain will move further north than predicted, in areas where the river has already crested. That would lessen the impact some.”

The Mississippi fell at Memphis Wednesday and today.

If thunderstorms move farther south than anticipated in this morning’s weather models, Pope said it is possible counties in Mississippi north of, and including, Issaquena could be issued a flash flood warning late tonight or early Friday.

A few residents in north Vicksburg’s Ford subdivision have already evacuated. Williams Street became impassible Wednesday afternoon, leaving people scurrying to move belongings out and find a temporary place to stay until the water subsides.

Louis and Rosie Craft were among those leaving Williams Street Wednesday when water filled their yard much quicker than they had anticipated. They were two of 10 residents from their neighborhood — in which they’ve lived since 1956 when Louis Craft built their home — who were staying in the Red Cross shelter at Calvary Baptist Church Tuesday night.

“We didn’t have a choice; the water was just jumping up and we had to go,” said Craft, sitting comfortably beside his wife and fellow evacuees outside the shelter Tuesday. “It’s up to our third step right now. Two more feet and it will be in the house.”

Despite being driven out of his home by the rising river, Craft said he couldn’t be more thankful for being provided hot meals and a place to stay.

“Everyone has just been so great. God has been good to us,” he said, laughingly adding, “We’re refugees, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The Salvation Army is providing meals for evacuees at the shelter. Shirley Collins, one of the shelter managers for Red Cross, said the shelter is prepared to take on as many as 50 evacuees and provide assistance for as long as is needed.

“We’re going to be here as long as it takes,” she said.

More Ford subdivision residents were expected to enter the shelter in the coming days, as rising waters creep higher and higher along Ford Road. Residents on the road were watching the water levels this morning, but none were evacuating yet.

“Everybody on Williams Street has gone, except for a few who chose to stay in their homes,” said Vicksburg Police Lt. Davey Barnette. “Others are waiting until they’re forced out.”

Many streets and roads in Warren County are impassible, including Long Lake, Chickasaw and Thompson Lake roads. Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said he expects floodwater to cross Mississippi 465, the east and west route to Eagle Lake, later today or Friday.

“It’s lapping already,” Pace said this morning, urging drivers to be cautious about standing water.

“It’s not just Eagle Lake,” he said, “It’s Chickasaw and anywhere else. You just can’t tell where the roads end, especially in the dark.”

At least two homes on the south side of Mississippi 465 were taking on water Wednesday, and the water was inching closer to several more houses on the road.

Mississippi RiverCREST FORECAST48 feet on TuesdayTODAY’S STAGE:46.1 feetROSE:0.7 footFLOOD STAGE:43 feet