River rises, misses crest

Published 11:34 am Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Mississippi River was a tenth of a foot higher this morning and might not reach an official crest until Friday, while a strategy session continued at Coast Guard offices on plans to remove a sunken barge from below the Interstate 20 bridge.

The river at Vicksburg was measured at 43.3 feet after the level “bounced” around after rain Tuesday night, said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson.

“There’s a lot of water to drain in the Yazoo River,” Pope said, adding the stage in Vicksburg was likely to hold throughout the day. “Everything above Vicksburg is draining.”

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

The river had been predicted to crest Tuesday and again Wednesday. Flood stage in Vicksburg is 43 feet.

Meetings at the Coast Guard’s offices at the Port of Vicksburg this morning on how and when to remove the barge from near a highway support pier included officials with the Coast Guard, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development Secretary Sherri LeBas, Mississippi Department of Transportation District 3 Engineer Kevin Magee, Big River Shipbuilders and Salvage and Marquette Transportation.

Work to continue cutting a bean barge that became lodged on a support pier was suspended Sunday so equipment can be secured, specifically to lower a crane carrying a double-pointed chisel so it can fit under the old U.S. 80 bridge.

A time frame could result from today’s planning meeting, though safety remains the focus, said Lt. Teresa Hatfield of the Marine Safety Detachment.

“We want this to be as safe as possible,” Hatfield said.

Restrictions still continue for barges on the river in Vicksburg following the strikes to bridge support piers last week.

Lane reductions on eastbound Interstate 20 on the Louisiana side were expected through April 12 as state engineers check stability sensors. An emergency declaration to repair a damaged support rocker on pier 2 on the old bridge should come by the Vicksburg Bridge Commission by its next meeting, on April 13, superintendent Herman Smith said. Cost estimates were being sought in the interim, Smith said.

Drain valves at three locations along Vicksburg’s floodwall remain closed. No additional closures were planned unless the river’s forecast changes. Chickasaw, Long Lake, Laney Camp and Ziegler roads remain closed due to high water, as does the King’s Point Ferry.

Levels on both sides of the Steele Bayou Water Control Structure on Mississippi 465 held steady overnight. The river side was 91.1 feet, and the land side was at 85.5 feet. The structure was holding out 5.6 feet of water from farmland this morning.

Eagle Lake rose a tenth of a foot this morning, to 76.8 feet. The Muddy Bayou Control Structure is open and is expected to bring the lake’s stage up to 76.9 feet over several days.