Flooding in January? Mississippi River rising above flood stage for second time in three years

Published 8:45 am Monday, January 7, 2019

For the second time in three years, parts of the Mississippi River will go above flood stage in January.

According to the National Weather Service forecast released Saturday, the Mississippi is expected to crest at 44 feet in Vicksburg — 1 foot over flood stage — by Jan. 18. It reached 43.84 feet on Jan. 4, 2016, and 44 feet Jan. 5, 2016, according to Weather Service historical information. The river’s stage Saturday was 40.5 feet.

In Natchez, the Mississippi River is expected to crest at 51.1 feet on Jan. 20 — 3 feet over flood stage.

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According to Weather Service predictions, the Ohio River at Cairo is expected to reach 49.5 inches by Jan. 7.

“That’s getting on up there,” NWS hydrologist Marty Pope said, “But we’ve been having these things (high water) more recently, seems like in January, than we used to have.”

Col. Michael Derosier, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District commander, said the district has activated its emergency operations center to monitor and prepare to fight the forecasted flood.

“The district has begun and will continue to work with its local, state and federal partners,” he said.

The cause of the Mississippi’s rise, Pope said, is rainfall across the Ohio and Lower Mississippi Valley.

“In the last two weeks, right across southern parts of Illinois and into Missouri, they’ve had anywhere from 2 to 4 inches across there, and then going up the Ohio Valley 2 to 3 inches going straight up the Ohio River itself.”

Also, Pope said, 2 to 4 inches of rainfall in Tennessee west of Nashville during the last two to three weeks drained into the Cumberland River and went into the Mississippi.

“We’re filling our little locals (streams) up here too, (and) that’s going to help push it (high water) up a little bit too at this end,” he said. “That will come out of the Arkansas River, because they’ve had 3 to 4 (inches) across the Arkansas in the last two to four weeks, so that’s going to be something that’s going to be pushing things up a little as well.”

Usually, Pope said, the crest will hold for about two days and begin to fall.

“As long as we don’t keep getting rainfall after rainfall and it fills the river up and then it just goes flat on us. We don’t want to see that.

“Luckily, it looks like most of our forecasts are showing some of the rainfall, at least the localized rainfall, is going to go away, but it looks like they’ll get some kind of system across the Ohio that will add another inch or so probably around the seventh or the ninth,” Pope said.

“That’s going to happen after the Ohio River crest — Cairo’s crest — so that probably will not add a whole lot to the river itself, and there’s nothing across the lower valley very significantly over the next seven days at least.”

At 43 feet, Jackson Lane in North Vicksburg begins to flood. At 43.5 feet, Long Lake Subdivision is completely flooded. The Vicksburg floodwall gates at the train depot and the lumberyard gate 8 are also closed at 43.5 feet. At 44 feet, Ford and Kings subdivision at Pittman Road and Mary’s Alley begin to flood.