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|Mississippi crest next week at Vidalia may exceed 1927 and 1973|
If predictions issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) on Tuesday prove true, the Mississippi River will crest at Vidalia next week higher than it did during the floods of 1927 and 1973.
The NWS says the river will crest at 57 feet on Monday -- April 21 -- higher than the crest of 56.6 feet recorded on May 4, 1927, and higher than the crest of 56.7 feet on May 13, 1973.
Only the crest recorded on Feb. 21, 1937, of 58 feet was higher. That mark is the highest in the last 150 years.
Joe McFarland, head of operations and maintenance for the Corps of Engineers' Vidalia office, said the levees are in good shape as 24-hour-a-day patrols continue. He said any sandboils found by Corps' workers are reported to the Fifth District Levee Board.
Those sandboils have been keeping the Fifth District crews and inmate labor busy in recent days.
Fifth District Levee Board President Reynold Minsky, who has been traversing the levees up and down the Mississippi River for a number of days now, said Tuesday that "the main thing we're worried about right now are the numerous sandboils. We can control them, but we must make sure that we find them. Otherwise, this is just a normal flood fight for us."
He said there have been "some levee slides" where part of the levee "slides off leaving a gap" but not a hole through the levee.
"We've got one about a half mile below St. Joseph and some down south of Vidalia," said Minsky. "We're watching them and if we have to do something to them we will."
But he said "there is nothing to be concerned about as far as a levee failure. In my opinion we are in good shape."
Recent rises in the Mississippi have not been due so much to rains up north, said Minsky, than efforts to relieve flooding conditions in Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, where the levels of lakes and reservoirs are being lowered.
"When these bodies of water reach a certain level up there the Corps of Engineers has no choice to release some of the water," said Minsky. "It has to be done. That's how the system works."
Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said he anticipates only a few minor problems since the town's riverfront "is the highest point in the parish. It's been built up and is higher than the town itself."
Copeland said that buildings located on the riverfront aren't required to have flood insurance.
"The river walk has been built up and serves as a barrier also," said Copeland.
"The only problems we've had is the back flow through the drains and have sandbagged in some places," said Copeland. "If the crest reaches what is being predicted we may have a little water on Front Street itself but we'll be able to pump that off. Right now we're pumping from about 7 in the morning until late afternoon and can do that 24-hours-a-day if need be."
John Stringer, Executive Director of the Tensas Basin Levee District, said despite rises on the Ouachita and Black rivers "we anticipate no problems."
He said a few flood gates have been opened as the Ouachita rises "but that's normal. The National Weather Service is predicting five to six feet more of water in Monroe by next week on the Ouachita, but we can handle it."
The Tensas Levee District is contracted to maintain a small portion of the Mississippi River in southeastern Arkansas from where the Arkansas River enters the Mississippi to the Louisiana line.
In that area, Stringer said that during high water sandboils usually occur on the levee around the Greenville, Miss., bridge.
"But that hasn't happened as yet," he said. "None have been reported."
However, he said Tensas Levee District crews have seen herds of deer gathering on the Mississippi River levee in southeastern Arkansas.
Stringer said the Tensas Levee District "stands ready to help the Fifth District if we're needed."
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