Focused on Mississippi: The Mississippi River and Delta Flooding

Living Local

SHARKEY COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – It’s a dreary drive along Highway 61 south of Rolling Fork going toward Vicksburg right now. ‘Course, Delta soggy fields are everywhere all the way up to Memphis. But winter rains in the Delta mean more to people who live down here, in the South Delta. Because under the worst circumstances, winter rains last all the way into summer- like they did last year- because the Mississippi River stayed high and the Delta backwater couldn’t drain out like it’s supposed to.

The ultimate key to letting the Delta drain is the level of the Mississippi River. The river used to flood the whole Delta annually until they built the levees. But every once in a while, it liked to revisit it’s old stomping grounds. So, they built the Steel Bayou Flood Gates, so when the river gets high, the gates are closed to keep the water out of the Delta. But when the backwater is already in the Delta, those same gates keep the water in until the river level drops.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Marty Polk SAID things look favorable for opening the gates soon to allow the current Delta flooding to start draining off. The 16-day outlook estimates the Mississippi will be about seven feet lower than it is today, two and a half weeks out. But he cautions we still have the spring rise to go yet, when snow up north melt and wet weather hits the Tennessee and Ohio river valleys.

Or in other words, don’t drop your guard. Long time Delta flood watchers know that, like Ms. Tressie Turner. She helped clean up Evergreen MB Church on Floweree Road in north Warren County. Her church got four feet of flood water in it last year. And as they eye the backwater in sight at the woods line on the far side of Floweree Road, Ms. Turner gives an experienced analysis of the behavior of the Mississippi River and explains succinctly why they are watching it.

“Because it does what it wants to do. Every year it’s different. You never know how it’s going to do or nothing,” explained Turner.

Hopes are it will be different in a good way this year. But she says if water gets high enough to reach the church cemetery again, they are loading up the pews and the pulpit so they won’t lose them, like they did last year.

The Mississippi River gives and it takes away. Maybe this year, it will just leave us alone.

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