Mississippi River nears highest level since '37

By The Associated Press

VICKSURG — The National Weather Service has forecast that the Mississippi River will crest at 52.5 feet in Vicksburg on May 13, the highest level since 1937.

“We’ve got water coming down on top of heavy rain,” Marty Pope, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, told the Vicksburg Post.

“It’s looking pretty bad right now. We have lots of rain to come, too.”

The Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill., at the confluence with the Ohio River, stood at 53.5 feet overnight Sunday, 13.5 feet above flood stage, and it was predicted to crest there May 3 at 60 feet.

The stage at Vicksburg stood at 39.2 feet Monday. It reached 43.3 feet on March 31.

In 1937, the Mississippi River topped out at 53.2 feet. In 2008, the river reached 50.9 feet, the highest since 1973 when it reached 51.6 feet.

The benchmark 1927 flood reached 56.2 feet on today’s gauges.

Pope said that 5 to 8 inches of rain were predicted over the next three days from southwest Arkansas to the Ohio River Valley.

In Vicksburg, precautions were being taken.

LeTourneau Technologies equipment was being moved to prepare the low-lying oil platform fabrication yard for a repeat of 2008, when the plant shut down for about two months.

“It’s not the first time, but we’re preparing for a flood,” plant manager Bo-D Massey said. “We’re continuing our manufacturing to the best of our ability.”

Eight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quarter boats were headed upriver to help fight the swelling Mississippi River.

“At the request of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Memphis District, the Vicksburg District is going to a section of the Mississippi River at Hickman, Ky., with quarter boats as a precautionary measure to assist in flood fighting,” Corps spokesman Kavanaugh Breazeale said. “The barges will be there if needed.”

The quarter boats, dormitory-style housing and supply areas on barges used by the Corps’ mat-sinking and dredging units, were manned by 30 people. Their initial chore will be to feed and house government officials stationed in Hickman.

Each barge can house up to 100 people and it was unknown how many government employees might need assistance, Breazeale said.

“We won’t know until we get up there,” he said.

The trip upstream to Hickman, which is about 50 miles south of Cairo, is expected to take about five days, Breazeale said.

Breazeale said he did not know how long the Vicksburg crew would be in Kentucky.