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Eagle Lake flood fight in ‘life-saving mode’

The backwater has taken over Eagle Lake, as volunteers, residents and Warren County Emergency Management officials conceded the area to Mother Nature.

“All the roads adjacent to Eagle Lake are underwater and impassable,” Warren County EMA director John Elfer said.

As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, the level of the Yazoo Backwater area on the landside was 98.03, about 2 feet higher than the 96.6-foot record set March 18. The riverside level was 98.12 feet. The Mississippi River at Vicksburg was at 49.81.

Elfer said an estimated 50 homes in the Eagle Lake community were flooded and about 100 people have resolved to remain in the area.

“Some of the people are trying to save their homes,” he said. “We have the names and addresses of all the people who are staying. So far, we have not lost anyone.”

The U.S. Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District Saturday increased the projected crest in the Yazoo Backwater area from 97.5 to 98.5 feet because of prolonged high water on the Mississippi River, which resulted in an extended closure of the Steele Bayou Control Structure, and “in consideration of field data collected.”

The Vicksburg gauge on the Mississippi River has been above flood stage for more than 92 consecutive days, which is the longest duration that the gauge has been above flood stage since 1927.

Public officials Saturday went into “life-saving mode,” Warren County EMA director John Elfer said, restricting access to the Eagle Lake area to property owners, and those helping property owners, because ongoing backwater flooding made traveling in and around the area dangerous.

The move to restrict access came Saturday, the same day as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District announced the Yazoo Backwater area would crest near 98.5 feet in the week, a level that would cover nearly every road in the area.

“It is just too much of a danger now to have anyone who does not have a purpose in that area, or a property owner, to be there,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said. “It is hard enough for those who need to be there to move around safely, we definitely do not need any sightseers.”

The Sheriff’s Office has assigned more deputies to the area and has established a checkpoint at the base of the levee; the only remaining access route to Eagle Lake.

Pace said those looking to enter Eagle Lake will have their ID checked and will be asked their need for entering the area. Those who do not have a reason to be in the area will be turned around.

Those who are allowed access will be logged going in and logged going out.

Elfer said major flood prevention efforts that were ongoing for weeks, with major sandbagging efforts continuing through Friday, have been suspended. But, he said, there are some private property owners who are continuing to shore up property.

“We just want to make sure that everyone who needs to be out, who wants to be out, can get out,” Elfer said. “The determination this community has shown in fighting this flood has been amazing.”

As of 6 a.m. Saturday, the Vicksburg gauge on the Mississippi River was at 49.6 feet. The National Weather Service forecasts the Mississippi River will crest near 49.8 feet on the Vicksburg gauge by Monday.

In their release Saturday, the Corps said, “if the Yazoo Backwater area reaches 98 to 98.5 feet, the Vicksburg District anticipates that Eagle Lake may essentially have enough water flowing into it to equalize with the backwater area, resulting in a potential elevation of 98 to 98.5 in Eagle Lake within the next seven to 10 days.”

“The lake is going to fill up and there’s nothing anyone can do about that,” Elfer said, adding more homes will be flooded. But, he said, the impact from the backwater flood is not limited to Eagle Lake. “We will have additional flooding in the Floweree Road area, as well in some other areas.”

Pace said the additional patrols and restrictions to the area are also designed to eliminate any thievery that might take place during the flooding.

A mobile command post was set up Monday afternoon to control access and law enforcement activity in the area.

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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