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The hardest part of this flood is yet to come

For weeks we, along with countless other media outlets, have covered the flooding disaster along the Mississippi River, the Yazoo and the Yazoo Backwater Area.

All of us have seen images of flooded homes and farmland, and witnessed the heroic efforts by residents in their fight against the rising waters.

In many cases, it was a fight that was ultimately lost.

This week, I had the chance to view damaged homes in the Eagle Lake community, and it is a disaster in the making that words on paper cannot fully describe.

Block after block, street after street, is covered with a mixture of water, chemicals, trash and other debris constantly lapping up against the sides of homes and businesses.

Birdhouses that stood tall at the end of piers barely break the surface of the water. The tops of boathouses look like small, coppertop islands, while small streets and driveways have turned into slews navigable only by boat.

In some houses, water from the lake has swept inside, breaking windows and screens, while others built just a bit higher barely remain dry.

Some residents left the moment the county issued a mandatory evacuation order issued in March, while others continue to live in their homes, some surrounded by water only accessible by boat.

Hundreds of deer are caught on the backside of the levy, while alligators patrol the waters on the other side. For these animals, there is only so far they can go to escape the floodwaters, and for countless others, the waters have proved to be their downfall.

The impact from this flood, not just on Eagle Lake but in other places along the Delta, and to the farmers who have lost seasons of opportunities, will not be known for some time.

The cost in repairs to homes and infrastructure might be able to be calculated on a spreadsheet, but the time lost for businesses and farmers is time that cannot be returned.

In July 1997, the home I grew up in, the home my parents were still living at the time, was caught in a flash flood brought about by torrential rains from Hurricane Danny.

As the storm weakened, I was able to get to their house and get them and my sister on top of the roof to safety, but that was the immediate need. The recovery was much longer, slower, and in some cases more painful.

They were displaced for months as they wrangled with insurance adjusters and then contractors. The home was lost, valuable items were lost, but the struggle of rebuilding and restoring is what I most remember.

To this day, I can vividly recall the smell of the carpet as we pulled it from the home. The saturated sheetrock crumbled at the touch and I can still see my mother in the backyard working to wash the muck from those things that were salvageable.

The full impact of this historic flood season is not yet known, and it is far from over. But what might be the hardest and most painful part of it all is not even upon us.

The cleanup and the recovery will be what tests our community the most and where the need will be the greatest.

You cannot appreciate the damage being caused by this flood unless you see it for yourself, and you can no way understand what those dealing with the floods are going through.

What we can do now is pray for those affected and be a shoulder for them to cry on. Next, we need to grab our gloves, our boots and our shovels and be ready to clean up.

Tim Reeves is editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at tim.reeves@vicksburgpost.com.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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