Home > Flood, United States > Scores flee homes as surging Mississippi nears record level

Scores flee homes as surging Mississippi nears record level

May 9, 2011

smh.com

Houses have been engulfed by water in Memphis, Tennessee.Houses have been engulfed by water in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Getty Images

Tourists gathered and gawkers snapped photos of the rising Mississippi River, even as more residents were told to flee their homes and the river’s crest edged towards Memphis in Tennessee.

US officials went door-to-door on Sunday, warning about 240 people to get out before the river reached its expected peak on Tuesday.

In all, residents in more than 1300 homes have been told to go, and about 370 people were staying in shelters.


The Mississippi spared Kentucky and north-west Tennessee catastrophic flooding, but some low-lying towns and farmland along the banks of the big river have been inundated with water.

There’s tension further south in the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana, with the river’s crest continuing a lazy pace, leaving behind what could be a slow-developing disaster.

Jittery Memphis residents have been abandoning low-lying homes for days as the dangerously surging river threatened to crest at 14.63 metres, just shy of a 14.84-metre record of a devastating 1937 flood.

Record river levels, some dating as far back as the 1920s, have already been broken in some areas upstream.

Heavy rains and snowmelt have been blamed for swelling the big river, and there’s so much water in the Mississippi, the tributaries that feed into it are also backed up, creating some of the worst flood problems so far.Flooded ... Beale Street in Memphis.

Downriver in Louisiana, officials warned residents that even if a key spillway north-west of Baton Rouge were to be opened, residents could expect water 1.5 to 7.5 metres deep over parts of seven parishes. Some of Louisiana’s most valuable farmland is expected to be inundated.

The vital Morganza spillway, north-west of Baton Rouge, could be opened as early as Thursday although a decision has not yet been made.

A separate spillway north-west of New Orleans was to be opened on Monday, helping ease the pressure on levees there, and inmates were set to be evacuated from the low-lying state prison in Angola.

Engineers say it is unlikely any major metropolitan areas will be inundated as the water pushes downstream over the next week or two. Nonetheless, officials are cautious.

Since the flood in 1927, a disaster that killed hundreds, Congress has made protecting the cities on the lower Mississippi a priority, spending billions to fortify cities with floodwalls and carve out overflow basins and ponds – a departure from the “levees-only” strategy that led to the 1927 disaster.

%d bloggers like this: