Flooding in Mississippi: It's 'a disaster in slow motion' and worst is yet to come

Barbara Gauntt
The Clarion-Ledger

A man and woman in a motorboat move quietly along the waters of the Yazoo River, straight down Chickasaw Street in Vicksburg. The only indication of a road is a line of telephone poles to the left.

Under siege by the river before, many residents of the Vicksburg subdivision have abandoned the neighborhood. 

Farther north, it's not the river, but backwater flooding that has consumed the southern Delta.

Residents of the Chickasaw subdivistion in Vicksburg float along Chickasaw Road as they deal with choosing to stay during recent Yazoo River flooding. Hit hard by river flooding in previous years, many people have long abandoned their homes. Some, who had chosen to stay in Chickasaw, have either evacuated their homes for this flood or are making do, traveling in and out by boat. In northern Warren County and Issaquena County severe backwater flooding threatens both homes and farmland. March 20, 2019

During a March 21 news conference at Mississippi Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Pearl, Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency, noting that 500,000 acres are currently under water in the Mississippi Delta.

"(It is) not only destruction of property that is ongoing there because of the flooding but an agricultural disaster that is in the making," Bryant said. "We have not yet seen the worst of the flooding and the rising of the rivers." 

"When the Mississippi River is higher than the elevation of the interior Yazoo backwater area, the backwater area is unable to drain through the Steele Bayou Control Structure," explains Reagan Lauritzen, Public Affairs chief with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District.

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The mainline Mississippi River levee and Yazoo backwater levee combined with the closed gates at the Steele Bayou Control Structure and the Little Sunflower Control Structure, prevent Mississippi River water from backing into the lower Delta, said Lauritzen. 

Current flooding conditions are due to a combination of above-average rainfall in the Delta and high Mississippi River water. 

Water in the lower Delta has reached historic elevations during this current flood event, she said 

According to MEMA director Greg Michele, temporary housing assistance centers, opened in Vicksburg, Yazoo City, Grenada, Columbus and Satillo, are accepting applications for those who qualify for individual housing assistance.

"It's a disaster in slow motion," Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace says when asked if the homeowners of a farmhouse surrounded by water have evacuated. 

"By and large, the people know they going to be affected — and they leave."\

More:Flooding in the Delta stressing wildlife, including bears, turkey, pigs

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