Chotard weekenders brave water for first look at river’s wrath

Published 12:30 am Sunday, June 5, 2011

LAKE CHOTARD — One word was all it took to sum up the damp, musty air and buckled floor inside the camp home they call Tom’s Tree Top.

“Yikes,” said Clay Garner, unable to budge the door to his extended family’s summertime getaway at Lake Chotard along Laney Camp Road — itself shrouded in algae-speckled floodwater up to a muddy boat launch.

More than two weeks removed from the Mississippi River’s historic crest in Vicksburg, an entire bottom deck below the raised camp built in the 1980s by Ann and Thomas Oakes is under about 10 feet of water. Walls in the kitchen and restroom bear the discolored line left by floodwater, about 10 inches high; TVs and recliners are stacked on sawhorses. Garner, along with Linda Martin, the Oakeses’ daughter, ventured past submerged road signs and water snakes to check on two family camps, the other, next door Tom’s Tree Top and owned by her aunt, Charlotte.

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

Water lines on Chotard’s cozy weekend camps streaked high across second floors most thought were safe against that so-called “hundred-year flood.”

“Where the water’s been, we’ve never seen it like that before,” said Ann Oakes as she viewed photos of the kitchen and bedrooms Saturday.

“If I start to cry, y’all just forgive me,” Martin said. “We’ll have to completely redo the floor.”

The river at Vicksburg was at 50.3 feet Saturday night, a drop of 0.6 foot in 24 hours. It crested at 57.1 feet May 19, beating the 50.9 level reached in 2008, 56.2 in 1927 and 51.6 in 1973. Flood stage is 43 feet.

Recreational boating and fishing will return to Chotard, Albemarle, Airplane and Tennessee lakes once the river reaches 48 feet in Vicksburg, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said Friday. That mark could come Thursday, with a dip below the 43-foot flood stage predicted in about 10 days. Ferguson Lake in Washington County and Beulah and Whittington lakes in Bolivar County will reopen to fishers and boaters once the river dips to 50 feet at Greenville, predicted in about a week.

Commercial fishing is open in all public waters. Eagle Lake, Wolf/Broad Lake in Yazoo County and Moon Lake in Coahoma County are closed to all fishers and boaters due to continued high levels, the MDWFP said.

Levels at Eagle Lake rose when the Muddy Bayou Control Structure was opened by the Army Corps of Engineers to ease pressure on part of the mainline levee at Buck Chute. A sand boil there was enclosed with a 2-acre berm. The Corps expects to begin lowering Eagle Lake around June 20. Warren County expects to keep its emergency declaration from May 2 in effect.

In Warren County, 1,340 structures have been evacuated, 707 of them primary dwellings. More than 3,200 people have been displaced. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has OK’d more than $1.3 million in individual disaster assistance in 14 Mississippi counties, the agency said Friday. Of that, $317,354.98 has been approved in Warren County, the second-highest amount of the 14 counties, and $569,275.28 approved for Tunica County.