FACES OF THE FLOODS: Redwood’s Stormy Deere recalls fear in wake of 2019 Backwater Flood

Published 4:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2022

Faces of the Floods is a series by The Vicksburg Post that tells the stories of people impacted by catastrophic floods in the Yazoo Backwater area. 

From fending off a 12-foot alligator to watching volunteers from ages 2 to 90 fill sandbags and pray aloud for safety, there are some things from the 2019 flood Redwood resident Stormy Deere said she simply can’t unsee.

And while speaking through tears to a delegation from the Biden Administration on Aug. 24 in the South Delta High School auditorium, Deere said she felt overwhelming emotion: anger at the area’s elected officials for using the people impacted by the Yazoo Backwater floods as political tools.

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“It’s been 80 years that the people of the South Delta have been used as political pawns. And that’s the bottom line,” she said. “… We don’t garner the attention that high-income places do. We don’t pull the votes like a lot of high-income and highly populated places do.”

When the first signs of danger started rearing their heads in 2019, Deere said she saw the potential impacts of catastrophic flooding on wildlife and decided to pursue a wildlife rehabilitation career. Now a sub-permitted rehabber, at the height of the 6-month flood, Deere had three dogs, four cats, two possums and two raccoons in her care.

One morning, she woke up to find a 12-foot alligator had torn down the last section of wooden fencing in her yard and was making a beeline for her back deck — the same deck she had to let her cats and dogs outside on to get some fresh air every day because the rest of her property was underwater.

“Our fence had already taken damage from the waves and the weather and the water, and it used its snout to push the fence down to get to our back deck,” Deere said. “I don’t believe in killing something I’m not going to eat, and I’m certainly not going to kill an alligator for doing what it needs to do.

“It’s hungry, too, but it was scary,” she added. “I just knew any morning I was going to wake up and that alligator was going to be on my back porch.”

The floodwater didn’t recede until it was 11 inches from her back door.

Aside from the danger of rising water and the “stench of death” that permeated the air as more and more animals starved to death on high ground, Deere said the most vivid image that remains with her is one of hope.

“The day we went to the Valley Park (grain) elevator to load sandbags. … You had these little bitty kids, 2 and 3 years old, saying ‘Mama, give me a bag,'” she said. “You had old people in their 80s and 90s, they couldn’t carry a sandbag but they could make a sandwich.

“We had people come in 18-wheelers from all over Mississippi to help us load those sandbags and make those (ring levees),” Deere added. “They made this line, these big strong men, and they were throwing sandbags. And as they were throwing sandbags they were praising God. Singing praises.

“And all I could think about is, with all these people here, where is our government?”

The Valley Park grain elevator was established as a community meeting spot for those in need of sandbags to pile around their homes in makeshift levees. Deere and her husband, Jimmy, helped operate a pump to keep the water out of the elevator site, and it wasn’t uncommon to see Jimmy in his dump truck clearing water off the road to the elevator.

“I found God that day, but I also found a lot of anger, because we shouldn’t have had to do that on our own,” she said.

If you or someone you know is a South Delta resident impacted by the Yazoo Backwater Floods, email The Vicksburg Post’s Managing Editor at anna.guizerix@vicksburgpost.com to share your story.