61S subdivision sitting on ready ‘There was no thought of water getting up here’

Published 11:45 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Marie Wheelock has lived in Green Meadow subdivision since the early 1950s and doesn’t remember the Mississippi River ever being so swollen.

“I was born in 1927, so I don’t remember that one. But, there was no thought of water getting up here,” said Wheelock, whose Meadow Lane house sits near the neighborhood’s high point at U.S. 61 South. “We’ve never gotten anything.”

This week, Wheelock received a letter from a volunteer assisting the city’s awareness campaign that the area would be halfway inundated by floodwater.

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“It will affect a lot of my neighbors,” Wheelock said.

The subdivision is in the cross hairs of the Mississippi River as it continues a historic rise along the Mississippi Delta. If the river rises to the 57.5-foot crest predicted by May 20, areas between the river and the highway will be awash in the blue on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maps showing the expected scope of the flood. It extends east along the Big Black River all the way to Fisher Ferry Road. The Mississippi River stood at 48.9 feet this morning, up one foot.

Meadow Lane, Central Drive, Willow Drive and Short Street form a tilted block that dips low nearest the river. Its residents and nearby businesses say holes where culverts were removed near abandoned rail tracks off Short Street could make the flooding even worse.

“We have made three pumps and put them into place on our own,” said Brad Davidson of Electro Mechanical Solutions at a community meeting Thursday at Warrenton Elementary. We’re going to act and not react.” Neighbors have asked for relief in various forms, either from sandbags or pumps. The city has planned another session with the Army Corps of Engineers over the area’s flood potential, though the water might arrive before anything substantial can be done.

Wheelock, her husband, Larry, and stepson Brent have never evacuated because of water and said they might stay put again, despite the letter from South Alderman Sid Beauman, who was not at Thursday night’s meeting.

“I’m not going anywhere unless I have to,” she said.

On Thursday, Warren County ordered an evacuation of Eagle Lake after many had been advised to leave two days earlier by the sheriff’s department. Residents around LeTourneau began to leave this morning when LeTourneau Road near Glass Road was closed. Reduced staff to maintain the yard at LeTourneau Technologies will be taken to work by boat.

No evacuation order has been approved by Vicksburg officials, who have employed AmeriCorps volunteers to give and take information. The volunteers worked to insert rope between crossties used to plug holes at the City Front floodwall. Water had been seeping through the barrier.

Scenes across south Vicksburg and Warren County on Thursday resembled a construction yard in some places and a bona fide lake in others.

“We keep hearing higher,” said Pat Daughtry of lingering talk of even scarier crests while assisting construction of a raised levee to protect Foam Packaging and Carpenters Union Hall, one of a growing list of places with makeshift barriers. “This might have to be taken up before it’s all over with.”

Vicksburg Municipal Airport anticipates closing its runway to planes “within a week,” general manager Curt Follmer said. The airport will remain open for helicopter traffic, he said.

Hawkins United Methodist Church opened as a Red Cross shelter for flood evacuees, with more to follow as the need arises. Office hours at the United Way of West Central Mississippi have expanded to Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and has offered help to evacuees on a variety of needs, including rents, mortgages, school uniforms and others, executive director Barbara Tolliver said.

Precautionary power shutoffs continued in Entergy’s service area. The utility had 101 customers out of power this morning, mainly in low-lying areas off North Washington Street, spokesman Don Arnold said.

Twin County Electric Power Association’s substation in Onward will remain in service unless the Yazoo Backwater Levee is breached, which would result in 11 feet of water in the station, a release from the Delta-area utility stated.

About 250 customers were without power on the river side of the mainline river levee, mainly hunting and fishing camps in Issaquena and Warren counties, general manager John Moseley said. About 120 of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association’s meters in north-central Warren County have been pulled because of the flood threat, said service coordinator Rebecca Yeates.

Corps officials expect water to overtop the levee by at least a foot. It was closed to traffic Wednesday, as was Mississippi 465. The mainline river levee system is expected to close Saturday.

Stages at the Steele Bayou control structure this morning were 89.6 feet on the land side and 97.5 feet on the river side. The Yazoo River at Yazoo City was 31.4 feet this morning, up eight-tenths of a foot and 2.4 feet above flood stage.