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Flooding has displaced some; hotels offering special rate

Flooding from the Mississippi River and the Yazoo backwater areas has displaced people in Vicksburg and Warren County, but as yet the Red Cross has not opened any shelters in the area.

The reason, Warren County Emergency Management director John Elfer said, is no one who’s contacted his office has said they want to go to a shelter.

“We’ve had 30 people that we know of that have called requesting lodging and some sort of assistance,” Elfer said. “Of the people we have contacted, no one has indicated they would stay in a Red Cross shelter. That’s why we haven’t opened one.

“We’re prepared to open a shelter if necessary, but right now, all the people who have reached out to us are looking for rentals, whether it be an apartment or a house, because the Red Cross is not providing hotel rooms,” he said.

Elfer said EMA and the Red Cross have identified locations that could be used as shelters, and local officials and agencies are prepared to work with the Red Cross and the state Department of Human Services if necessary.

“Right now, we’re on standby to open one, but no one has said they would stay in one,” he said. “What’s needed is long-term, more permanent housing.

Some area hotels are offering special rates for Eagle Lake residents fleeing the flooding.

Lynn Foley, director of sales for Southern Hospitality Group, said the Comfort Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express & Suites and the Comfort Inn will offer a special rate of $89 a night to Eagle Lake residents who choose to leave.

She said people should call the hotels direct and ask for the Eagle Lake rate. To get the rate, however, they must show a valid ID with an Eagle Lake address.

The Holiday Inn and LaQuinta hotels are offering a $79 dollar a night rate for Eagle Lake residents with the same restrictions.

Inching towards 97 feet

Rising floodwaters have displaced residents in Ford Subdivision, the Kings community and Chickasaw, and there is the possibility other people may be affected by flooding with water in the Yazoo backwater area projected to reach 97-97.5 feet. The present stage of the backwater is 96.38 feet.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors March 8 issued a mandatory evacuation of the Eagle Lake community because of the threat of backwater flooding.

Elfer said his office has received calls from residents at Eagle Lake and the backwater areas, but none want to stay in a shelter. He added he believes about half the full-time residents at Eagle Lake have evacuated.

He emphasized that people should use extreme caution if they have to travel in the area.

“The Mississippi Levee Board has indicated that in the event Highway 465 is closed between Highway 1 and the leveee, the levee road will be open for light vehicles between Fitler and Highway 465,” Elfer said. The unmarked access road is about a mile from the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 465, adjacent to a white fence.

Peter Nimrod, chief engineer for the Mississippi Levee Commission said the backwater forecast remains at 97-97.5 feet, adding, “It’s creeping up a tenth or two a day.”

He said there was some good news — the seven-day forecast for the area shows good weather for the next seven days without any rain across the southern Mississippi Valley.

“That’s great,” he said. “Hopefully that will let the river drop on down and hopefully we can get the (Steele Bayou) gates opened up in the next couple of weeks as opposed to six weeks away.

“It’s still getting higher in the backwater area, but not as bad as we were thinking it might.”

The forecast, he said showed some rain in the upper Mississippi Valley, but nothing in the Delta, “So we’re looking great as far as adding more rainfall into the backwater; it’s looking really good, so that’s a blessing.”

He said the new forecast also indicates the Mississippi River may not go back to the 51.4 crest that passed Vicksburg in the early part of the week, and could begin dropping. The projected forecast puts the Mississippi at 50.7  feet Wednesday, and about 49.5 March 28.

“That’s really good news,” he said. “As soon as the river drops below the protection side, we’ll open up the gates and let out as much water as possible.”

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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