Saturday, May 7, 2011

Four million people at risk as record breaking floods sweep Mississippi Delta - 7th May 2011

More than 4 million people living in 63 counties close to the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico could be affected by flooding in the coming days.

Communities all along the banks of the Mississippi have been carefully watching the river rise, like a giant bathtub filling up with water.

Record river levels, some dating as far back as the 1920s, were expected to be broken in some parts along the river. In Memphis, the river was expected to crest at 48 feet on Wednesday, just shy of the 48.7-foot record from the devastating flood of 1937.

But the current crest in Memphis is already the second-highest for the city, eclipsing the previous 45.9-foot peak set during the historic flood of 1927.

The Coast Guard closed a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi to protect the town of Caruthersville in Missouri on Friday and said barges could be banned for up to eight days.

They reopened it later in the day after the National Weather Service lowered the projected crest at Caruthersville from 49.5 feet to 48.1 feet.

The fear was that the wake from big boats would push water over a floodwall and into the town of 6,700.

Coast Guard Capt. Michael Gardiner said river monitoring will continue and that navigation will be restricted when necessary.

Barges regularly move coal, grain, ore, gravel, auto parts and other vital products down the Mississippi. Read More