River sandbars called unstable and dangerous

Published 11:42 am Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Mississippi River sandbars are unusually large this year, and inviting, but officials say they’re also dangerous.

“The bank can look and feel solid one minute and be dropping under your feet the next,” said Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace. “They’re very unpredictable and unstable.”

The Mississippi River stood at 5.0 feet at Vicksburg this morning, down 27.7 from 32.7 feet on this date last year and 52.1 feet below the historic high of 57.1 feet recorded on May 19, 2011, when flooding lapped the waterway out of its banks in states north and south.

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Flood level at Vicksburg is 43 feet.

Pace said no incidents have been reported on the sandbars, which have been dotted with boaters and sunbathers on sunny days during the past few weeks, but he still suggests people avoid them.

“We can tell them how dangerous it is out there, but we can’t stop them from going out,” Pace said. “The true bank is constantly moving.”

Derek Spivey, who works with the U.S. Coast Guard office at the Port of Vicksburg, too, cited sudden changes in the sandbars as being dangerous.

“There’s always the possibility of collapse out there,” Spivey said. “The places that just fall off probably wouldn’t be noticeable if you’re just walking on the sandbar.”

“The sandbars are always dangerous, whether the water is low or not,” Pace said. “People just have to be extremely cautious and be aware of the strength of the river at all times.”