An agonizing wait in La. for creeping floodwaters

By Michael Kunzelman

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 22 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Marty Pope, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said Saturday that the Yazoo River is not expected to crest until Monday at Yazoo City and two days later at Belzoni.

Pope said that means floodwaters will recede in some areas but continue to rise in others.

"I'll be glad to see that water start surging the other way," Pope said.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker applauded the corps on Saturday after a flying tour of flooded areas along the Mississippi River. The two Republicans spoke with reporters on a Vicksburg bluff overlooking the swollen river and said the most important thing was that the levees and the entire flood control system had worked as designed — despite some lesser problems.

 Wicker said the flooding has dumped sediment that will have to be dredged from ports and harbors along the river. He said there may be a need to seek a federal budget supplement from Congress to fund those projects. Cochran, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, also said the flooding is one of the biggest disasters in recent memory — stretching in some areas as far as he could see.

 "It's going to a long time before we fully recover," Cochran said, noting it could take weeks for some areas to dry out once the water recedes. But he promised, "We can overcome this disaster."

 The river was at 56.7 feet at Vicksburg on Saturday, down from the crest of 57.1 feet. It's still above the 1927 record of 56.2 feet.

The surging water has wiped out crops and damaged low-lying farmland along both banks of the Mississippi and its tributaries.

In Louisiana, Marty Frey harvested 600 acres of wheat from the Morganza Spillway before the massive gates were opened to divert water. But his rice had just been planted and now those fields are deep under water as thousands of acres of fields were swamped.

Back in Butte LaRose, Tommy Girouard, 57, and his brother, Keith, 53, were hunkering down to ride out the flood on Tommy's 60-foot house boat. Girouard said he is staying to protect his $150,000 investment. They stock up on 400 gallons of gas and food to last two months.

"It's safe on here," he said. "It shouldn't be a problem. Just tightening and loosening ropes, we should be fine."

Sheriff's deputies and National Guard troops knocked on his door Thursday, warning him about the evacuation that has since been temporarily lifted and telling him to sign a form that says he understands the risks of staying.

"Didn't read it. Wasn't interested," Girouard said. "I can't just walk away from this."

Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr in Vicksburg, Miss., contributed to this report.

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