Mississippi River falling about a foot a day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Mississippi River has receded below flood stage at Vicksburg and continues to fall at about a foot per day, but it still will be at least a week before water drains off crops in the Yazoo Backwater Area.

The river stage at Vicksburg was 40.9 feet this morning, a fall of 1 foot from Monday morning. The river rose above flood stage of 43 feet on May 13 and topped out at 47.5 feet two weeks later on May 27. It dipped below flood stage Sunday morning and has been on a steady retreat since.

While the flood’s effects in and around Vicksburg were minimal compared with those experienced last year, those who live and farm inside the 4,093 square miles of levee-locked land north of Vicksburg known as the Yazoo Backwater Area are enduring the third worst flood since the levees were completed in 1978.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

An estimated 394,000 acres inside the backwater area were under water when the gates of the Steele Bayou Control Structure — the lone drainage point for the area — were opened on Thursday. Of that, 152,000 acres are cleared land for farming.

As of this morning, the water stage inside Steele Bayou was 91.8 feet, a decline of 0.7 foot in a 24 hour period. Outside the structure, the water stage measured 2 feet lower at 89.8 feet, as floodwaters continued to drain out of the four, 30-foot wide gates of Steele Bayou.

“The head inside the gates is going to continue to increase every day because the river is falling so fast and we’ve got such a high volume of water inside the structure trying to drain out,” said Robert Simrall, Corps chief of water control.

Crops begin going under water in the backwater area at about 86 feet, however, Simrall said 69 feet is considered the “normal water stage” for the area. Farmers in the backwater area are waiting for their fields to drain and dry out so they can begin re-planting fields that were already seeded and fertilized when the water began to rise.

“If we start to see the landside falling at a foot a day, we should be back below 86 within a week,” said Simrall, “but it’s going to be a long time before we see it get back to 69 feet.”

Meanwhile, the Muddy Bayou Control Structure — which holds floodwaters in the backwater area out of the Eagle Lake community — remains closed and is holding about 13 feet of water out of the community of about 600 residents, said Simrall. Mississippi 465 — a two lane highway connecting the Eagle Lake community to U.S. 61 North — reopened last week after being under water for about two weeks.

In the city, a handful of roads went under water in the Kings and Waltersville subdivisions north of downtown, and have since been re-opened. At the river’s height, an estimated 45 structures took on water in the area, however, most were still unoccupied due to damage sustained in flooding last spring. City officials estimated 20 residents were displaced.

Restrictions on river barge traffic imposed by the U.S. Coast Guard in mid-May have also been lifted. Due to increased currents, southbound tows are allowed to pass beneath the bridges at Vicksburg only during daytime hours during a high water event. Five barge tows struck support piers on the U.S. 80 bridge in a 40-day span during last year’s flood, and a number of barge breakups occurred. No barge incidents were reported during flooding this year. 

In 2008, the river surpassed flood stage on March 29, crested at 50.9 feet on April 19 and did not fall below flood stage until May 10. It was the highest measured river stage recorded at the city in 35 years, dating back to 1973 when the river climbed to 51.6 feet.

Officials estimated that 145 people were displaced from 101 homes in the city, most of them located in repetitive flood plains north and south of the city such as Kings and Waltersville. Since then, 16 homeowners in repetitive flood plains have participated in a federal buyout of their homes, while others remain displaced and some have waived their rights to any future disaster assistance to begin rebuilding their homes.


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com