City deconstructing walls, opening railways

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The railways will reopen as soon as today due to the changes to the predicted crest level of the Mississippi River.

The High Water Response Team Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss the latest news on the flooding Mississippi River. Monday morning the National Weather Service lowered the predicted crest level to reach 50.5 feet on Friday.

The industries at the Port of Vicksburg will be able to use rail traffic again Tuesday now that the wall built across it to shield floodwaters has been removed.

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“They have taken the flood wall out where the train will go through, and it’s my understanding they are going to take the flood wall out where trucks can go down the street,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “They are going to open the railroad back up [Tuesday].”

The wall built in the intersection of Levee and Grove streets will soon be deconstructed as well. Crews will fill the holes with gravel for the time being in case the wall has to be reconstructed for a possible spring flood, landscape architect and assistant public works director Jeff Richardson said. Flaggs and Richardson expect the road to be useable in the next couple days.

“We’ll have thru traffic by the end of the week,” Flaggs said.

As the water levels decrease more of the retention walls will be taken down along the waterline.

Eight streets have been closed because of the high water and 21 homes have been surrounded by water, Inspection Director Victor Gray Lewis said.

Vicksburg police Chief Walter Armstrong said six officers are working around the clock on separate 12-hour shifts in the evacuated area. Armstrong also warned against the public exploring the railroad beds.

“If anyone is caught down on 61 on that railroad bed, they are trespassing, and they are subject to be cited for that,” Armstrong said. “We have started to increase our presence down on 61 south on the railroad bed.”

Dave Benway, director and curator of The Old Depot Museum, asked for help moving the sandbags from the museum’s entrance and back making the building easier to access. The sandbags will be moved to the side for now.

“We’re going to take on either side of the front entrance and remove the sand bags and set them to the side,” Benson said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is still monitoring the pump put in place in the depot’s basement that would pump out any incoming water the basement takes on. Flaggs said he asked the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and Vicksburg Main Street to continue to be located at the City Hall Annex and not move back to their offices in the depot for the next three to four months as a precaution.

City Accounting Director Doug Whittington said the city has spent approximately $54,000 at this point on emergency flood preparation. Unless a federal state of emergency is declared, the local government will have to absorb that cost.

Because the crest has been lowered, many local agencies had no update or no issues brought up at the meeting.

“I don’t think we could have done it without everybody collaborating, communicating, and thank God that it wasn’t as worse as we thought it would be and thank God we didn’t have any injuries or fatalities,” Flaggs said. “I think we’ve done good.”

The committee has canceled their Wednesday meeting and will not meet again until Friday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.

“That will be a wrap up, and then we’ll turn around and figure out what we need to do from here,” Flaggs said.