MDOT to close sections of Mississippi 465 at Eagle Lake Monday

Published 8:00 pm Friday, March 1, 2019

Sometime Monday, people will no longer be able to use the backwater levee to access Eagle Lake.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation has announced it will be closing sections of Mississippi 465 inside Eagle Lake because backwater flooding is threatening the road. A portion of the road from U.S. 61 west was closed Sunday.

“The backwater is coming up and it’s going to be the highest it’s been since 1973,” said Peter Nimrod, chief engineer with the Mississippi Levee Board. “The water is going to be backing up on the protected side of the levee, so MDOT is gearing up to close that road off.

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“Monday, whenever MDOT closes 465 to Eagle Lake, we’re going to have to lockdown the backwater levee, because then the only way to get to Eagle Lake will be to drive straight up north to Onward and take Highway 1 over to Highway 465 and drive 465 back down all the way back to Eagle Lake.”

Nimrod added the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks has requested the Levee Board close Brunswick levee, which is another route to Eagle Lake because of wildlife collecting in the area of the levee.

He said the high backwater is the result of heavy local rains and the closure of the Steele Bayou gate, which was closed Feb. 15, when the level of the Mississippi River exceeded the level of the water on the landside.

Closing the Steele Bayou gates, Nimrod said, “Keeps the river out, which is great, but it blocks up all the drains in the Delta. We’ve had 10-12 inches of rain last week, and all that water’s headed south and that’s the reason it’s going to back up so high.”

Higher than 2011

Drew Smith, Chief of Water Management at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, said levels are expected to exceed 2011 levels in the area between Yazoo City and Belzoni because of the higher local rainfall in addition to backwater from the Mississippi River.

“Steele Bayou has been closed several weeks now, (and) with rain on the ground, we’re still projecting that we’re going to get a 96 to 97-foot interior elevation,” Smith said. “Any rainfall through the month of March will add to that.

“If we get approximately normal rain, which will be about 4-5 inches through the month of March, we could probably be looking at a foot (more) — 98 feet on the interior.

“Right now, we don’t see any rainfall forecasts that will make that happen, that would increase the forecast level in the backwater significantly, but the entire month of March is a rainy month, so even just with normal rainfall we could see an increase forecast in the backwater,” Smith said.

“Anything above normal would have a bigger impact.”

Presently, Smith said, there is a large amount of water coming out of the Yazoo basin past Greenwood because of local heavy rain below flood control reservoirs.

“And as the Mississippi’s coming up, that backwater is transitioning to headwater, or headwater is transitioning to backwater between Belzoni and Yazoo City and we’re seeing higher stages in that area.”

The combination of backwater and headwater is causing higher stages, Smith said, adding, “We’re looking at 111-112 feet in the Belzoni area on the mainstream Yazoo River because of local heavy rain in the Yazoo Basin combined with Mississippi River backwater, where in 2011, it was 107-108.”

The area was in a drought during the 2011 flood, Smith said. “So the flooding then was all from the Mississippi.”

He said the Corps anticipates reopening the Steele Bayou gates after March 20 once the river has fallen back below the interior level.

“If the interior (landside) level goes higher, we’ll get the gates open quicker,” he said.

“We’re still on track for (a crest of) 51.5 (feet at Vicksburg). Now that we’ve gotten the crest at Cairo, we’re able to hone in better on the forecast here, and it still looks like a pretty good number.

“Our forecast is based on water coming out of the Arkansas River, the St. Francis River and White River basins, plus the crest at Cairo. Now that we’ve gotten a fix on those, we feel pretty confident about the reach.”

Smith said district hydrologists are staying current with the National Weather Service rainfall projections, adding, “We’re watching that, and we have contingency plans.”

He said the staff has modeling tools where they can take the rainfall projection “and run it over our reservoirs, our interior sump areas, the Mississippi River, and we can take data from the NWS and run models and help aid in the decision making process and the forecasting effort that the Weather Service leads.

“We’re in information mode, getting as much accurate information out to the public as we can.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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