Rain not expected to affect flood crest forecast|[04/05/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 5, 2008

Despite a severe thunderstorm that raged through Vicksburg and Warren County Friday afternoon, dropping trees, power lines and 1.35 inches of rain, the Mississippi River crest forecast at Vicksburg remained unchanged.

The river was flowing at 44 feet Friday, and was forecast to rise to 47.2 feet today. On Friday, the forecast crest date was raised one foot and pushed back five days, to April 13, with the river now expected to top out at 49 feet.

“There’s not going to be any change in tonight’s forecast because the rain that fell today was already factored into the current forecast,” Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center Hydrologist Angelo Dalessandro said Friday night. “But when our next forecast comes out on Saturday afternoon there could be.”

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While rainfall in Vicksburg was not expected to raise the river stage, it will certainly cause a higher water stage on the landside of the Steele Bayou Structure, which has been closed since March 13 to keep out high water on the riverside, said Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod.

“They got around 2 to 3 inches throughout the Delta, which is all going to drain down to Steele Bayou and have nowhere to go,” said Nimrod.

Although the gated structure keeps river water from rising on the Delta side, it also creates a bathtub effect when rain falls on the landside, which is surrounded by levees.

Friday, the landside of the structure was at 87.9 feet, while the riverside stood at 95.3 feet. The levee board had earlier hoped the gates of the flood-controling structure could be opened to relieve land inside the structure by April 13. However, with the river’s continual rise, Nimrod said, the gates will not be open by then.

“That’s going to get pushed way back,” he said, “which means the best thing people located inside the structure can do is cross their fingers.”

Most of that land is used by farmers who Nimrod said are “caught in the middle right now.”

If the controversial Yazoo Backwater Pump Station were in place, which would allow some of the landside water to be pumped back out into the riverside, it would have been turned on when the landside level reached beyond 87 feet.

“It would be on now,” Nimrod said of the proposed $220 million pump, “which would make this event a lot less dramatic.”

Since 1973, when floodwaters in Vicksburg rose to 51.6 feet — second only to the historic flood of 1927 — the river has risen above 49 feet only two times, in 1983 and 1997.

A flash flood watch was in effect Friday in the city, but it appears the rain did not raise floodwaters in Vicksburg’s low-lying area. Vicksburg Police Sgt. Virgil Woodall said Friday no residents in Ford subdivision were forced to evacuate due to rising waters.

Eight of an original 10 Ford subdivision residents remained at the Red Cross shelter at Calvary Baptist Church on Warriors Trail Friday morning, but the shelter became inaccessible during the thunderstorm because of downed trees and limbs, said the Executive Director of the Red Cross Vicksburg Chapter Beverly Connelly. Additionally, the shelter was left without power.

Calls to the shelter for an update on Friday night were unanswered. Connelly said damage to the Confederate Ridge apartments on U.S. 61 north left six people looking to move to the shelter, but she did not know if they would be able to be admitted on Friday.

Mississippi RiverCREST FORECAST49 feet on April 13TODAY’S STAGE: 47 feetROSE: 0.4 footFLOOD STAGE: 43 feet