River’s slow fall ‘best for levees’

Published 11:44 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The slow fall of the Mississippi River — down five-tenths of a foot today to 55.4 feet at Vicksburg — is best for preserving the integrity of the levee system, Lt. Col. Greg Raimondo, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, told about 300 people during a community meeting Tuesday.

“For us, that’s the best thing that can happen,” he said.

The slow fall, Raimondo said, should lessen the likelihood of more boils and landslides on the mainline levee system.

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“You’re going to have seepages through the whole area,” he said, because the system is saturated and prone to structural issues.

Flood stage for the river at Vicksburg is 43 feet, and it topped that level on May 1, rising an average of a foot a day until it crested on May 19 at 57.1 feet.

The high water on Mississippi and Yazoo river levees has created pressure that has created, among others, two slides on a 300- to 400-foot stretch of landside levee near Lake Albemarle. They are being shored up with rocks and sand. A boil on the Buck Chute levee at Eagle Lake was enclosed and a gradual rise in lake levels to equalize water pressure continues.

About 7,000 tons of rock will shore up the slide, while about 11,000 tons of sand will be used to backfill the area to provide weight and stability while allowing water to seep out.

Levels at the Steele Bayou Control Structure were 104.8 feet on the river side and 89.9 feet on the land side. Stages should equalize around June 20, when the Corps expects to open gates there, according to current estimates.

Testing begins today on sections of U.S. 61 north and south of Vicksburg and on U.S. 49 West in Yazoo and Humphreys counties, said Mississippi Department of Transportation Central District Engineer Kevin Magee. Inspections to Mississippi 465 will follow once more water recedes, Magee said.

Findings should determine structural integrity, which will dictate when highways reopen, Magee said.

“We’ve noticed some pavement damage down at the Big Black we think is minor at this point,” Magee said. “The bridge is OK.”

Rain produced by the deadly outbreak of storms and tornadoes in the Midwest since Sunday has slowed water recession in the Lower Mississippi, said Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Jackson. The river is forecast to crest in Memphis at the 34-foot flood stage by June 9. High points downriver from there could be stretched out to June 25, Pope said.

A quarter-inch of rain is predicted tonight in Vicksburg with partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of rain Thursday night.