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Mississippi River expected to hit flood stage in April, then drop

The Mississippi River is expected to crest at its 43-foot flood stage on April 2 and then experience a slow fall, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service said.

“Right now at Cairo, the National Weather Service has lowered their crest down by a foot but they’re still holding at 43 feet at Vicksburg,” Weather Service hydrologist Marty Pope said.

Presently, Pope said, the Mississippi at Vicksburg is 42.7 feet. The level is expected to fall and then go back up to 43 feet on April 2. The second fall will not be as fast, Pope said, dropping to 39 feet by April 20.

“It would be pretty sharp if we weren’t getting extra rainfall beyond the (next) two days, but since we are getting extra rainfall, it’s just going to hold it up a bit higher,” he said.

Pope said the heaviest rain is coming Wednesday and Thursday, possibly producing 1-to-3 inches across the Vicksburg area, with less in the north. Another system on Sunday is expected to remain in the southern part of the state.

He said the recent bump in the river level was caused by two things, heavy rains in Tennessee and north Alabama, where 3-to-7 inches of rain fell in the area north of Huntsville, Ala. The heavy rain forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open the reservoir at Barkley, Ky., to reduce the lake’s level.

The reduction in the reservoir caused forecasters to lower the crest at Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet, from 47.5 feet to 46.5 feet.

The forecast for the Ohio River Valley indicates .25 to 1.25 inches of rain with possibly about .25 to 1.75 inches of rain in the middle and upper Mississippi Valley and 1.5 to 2 inches of rain in the Cumberland River Valley.

“As far as the Ohio River and the upper Mississippi, we’re in pretty good shape there,” Pope said. “The middle Missouri River looks like it’s going to get a little more rainfall between 2-to-3 inches but that will be well down the road before that water will get into our area and affect Cairo. That’s good news.”

Local rain will have an effect on the Yazoo River, “And probably some bumps on the river — localized rises on the Mississippi that will come back down a little,” he said. “You’ll probably see a pop up if we get some heavy rain on the river to go up a little but it will go back down because there are no big rain amounts on the Arkansas River; maybe 1.5 inches, which is fairly normal rainfall, no real extreme heavy rainfall.”

At 43.0 feet, Jackson Lane in north Vicksburg begins to flood. At 43.5 feet, which is higher than what is forecasted, Long Lake subdivision is completely flooded and the Vicksburg floodwall gates at the Old Depot are closed. As of Tuesday, the city had no plans to begin constructing the flood walls in downtown near the Old Depot.

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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