Watchers waiting as water recedes

Published 12:31 am Saturday, May 21, 2011

As the Mississippi River at Vicksburg drops from its historic crest, those most concerned with watching it — law enforcement, levee officials and displaced residents — aren’t seeing see much of a change.

“Even if you see a drop of an inch or two, you can’t tell the difference,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “In the areas affected by the flood, inches are academic when you have water in your attic.”

Friday night, the river stood at 56.8, a barely-perceptible drop from its 56.9-foot level Friday morning.

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The Mississippi at Vicksburg crested Thursday at 57.1 feet, more than 14 feet above the 43-foot flood stage. It is the highest level recorded here, besting the 1927 mark of 56.2 by nearly a foot.

Levee-watching continued, as several sand boils and a slide of about a 250-foot section near Lake Albemarle caused some concern earlier in the week, but no additional problems were reported, said Robert Simrall, division chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Water Control Division.

The sand boils are under control, Simrall said, and have been sandbagged.

“We’re looking at another month or so above flood stage,” he added. “People need to still be aware of what’s going on. The flood’s not going away just because we hit crest.”

Engineers and officials were relieved that floodwaters did not overtop the Yazoo Backwater Levee, said Peter Nimrod, engineer for the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners.

Nimrod gave credit to the Corps, which has helped fight sandboils and worked to cover threatened levees with thick, protective polyvinyl.

“The Corps has really stepped up and helped,” Nimrod said Friday night. “Our heroes are the Corps of Engineers, no doubt.”

Daily flows on the river at Vicksburg have been measured at up to 2.2 million cubic feet of water per second, surpassing recordings in 1937 and adding stress to the system, Col. Jeffrey Eckstein, commander of the Corps’ Vicksburg District, said Thursday.

About 300 sand boils have been counted along levees lining the Mississippi, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division has said.

The 2011 flood has displaced about 2,168 people in Vicksburg and Warren County, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency has said. Most are believed to be staying with relatives and friends.

More than 550 have registered for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

More than 4,800 people have been displaced statewide, MEMA has estimated.

Vicksburg officials have scheduled a third community flood meeting for Tuesday, at which they plan to discuss a range of issues. It is set for 6 p.m. at Vicksburg Auditorium.