Big Muddy may rise a bit more during crest

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day might include a trip to a river overlook to see the Mississippi River at Vicksburg higher than almost any Memorial Day in record-keeping history.

The river may creep up another inch or two today, but the official forecast still called for it to crest in Vicksburg Sunday night, said Kai Roth, hydrologist with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La.

“Yesterday we forecast the crest at 47.4 this morning, but we’ve bumped that to 47.4 this evening,” Roth said Sunday afternoon.

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Officially, the river at Vicksburg measured 47.3 feet Sunday morning. Regardless, the late-season rise is expected to hold for a while.

“We have it coming up another tenth or so, holding flat for three days and then slowing falling thereafter,” Roth said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it crept up another tenth or two after that just because of how much water is moving through there, but with this flat crest people aren’t going to see much change over the next three to four days.”

Upriver, Roth said, the Mississippi was cresting in Greenville Sunday at 52.9 feet and was to remain there for the next two days.

Mississippi 465 into the Eagle Lake community continued closed Sunday, with local traffic only routed over the Yazoo Backwater Levee. Water has risen into some of the homes in the area, and Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said extra deputies will remain on patrol in the community until the water goes down and 465 is reopened.

The river itself is causing some crops to be lost, but the far greater damage will be inside the levee-locked Yazoo Backwater Area off U.S. 61 North. The impounded water continues to rise slowly, which accumulates on the land side of levee during floods, can’t be released until the Mississippi falls. Spring flooding, when it occurs, is usually over and done with my mid-May.

Robert Simrall, U.S Army Corps of Engineers chief of water control, said readings at 3 p.m Sunday showed the land side at 92.8 feet, up a tenth over Saturday’s level. On the river side, the water was at 95.9, up two-tenths from Saturday.

Additional rain forecast over the next five days will raise land side levels, Simrall said. Original Corps estimates had the land side stage reaching 92.5 feet at the end of the month. A new estimate was expected today, Simrall said.

Gates at Steele Bayou were closed May 10 to keep the floodwater off the flat Mississippi Delta.

The National Weather Service was forecasting more rain Sunday night, today and through the week, with possible five-day accumulations of an inch to an inch and a half, which would make more cropland useless.

Farmer Albert Dornbusch said he has lost about 350 acres of corn near the Mahannah Wildlife Refuge up Mississippi 3. “When the water goes down we’ll go in and probably plant soybeans,” he said.

He has another 100 to 150 acres that have been affected in the area inside the levees, he said.

“I’ve been doing it so long I’m kind of used to it,” Dornbusch said, but added that this year he and other local farmers took advantage of a new crop insurance program that will help more than previous catastrophic insurance coverages. “But before you can get any help you have to lose 50 to 75 percent of your crop.” he added. “It’s got like a super-deductible.”

River traffic continued without incident Sunday. The U.S. Coast Guard last week restricted barge traffic, with southbound tows allowed to pass beneath the Vicksburg bridges only during daylight hours. Five barge tows struck support piers on the U.S. 80 bridge last year during the flooding.

Casinos also continue normal operations, although walkways leading to two, DiamondJacks and Horizon, are steeper to match the river’s level.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at