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Entries in Mississippi River (17)

Tuesday
May102011

Mississippi River Crests in Tennessee; Most of Memphis Spared

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- By early Tuesday morning, it appeared that most of Memphis, Tennessee was spared from the flooding of the mighty Mississippi River.

Since the bulk of the city is located on a bluff, only low-lying areas have so far been affected by the nearly 48-foot crest, the highest the nation’s largest river system has reached in Memphis since the Great Flood of 1937.  It is expected to reach 48 feet later on Tuesday.

Graceland, Beale Street and other familiar sites in Memphis were largely untouched by the flooding.  And even while city officials visited about 1,300 residences in the past few days to urge evacuations, many residents stayed home.

Still, Cory Williams of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Monday night, “We're going to wait until the water goes down a whole lot more and then we'll celebrate success."

It was clear Memphis officials had faith that the city's levees, flood walls and pumps would do their job.  The network has come at a cost of over $13 billion throughout the years but the Corps of Engineers says it's been well worth it by preventing an estimated $370 billion in flood damage.

Yet the danger from the Mississippi River is not over for communities and refineries downstream from Memphis.  The crest isn’t expected to occur there for another two weeks, which is when the flood waters are due to finally empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May102011

Snakes, Wild Animals Invade as Mississippi River Rises

ABC News(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Dangerous reptiles and other animals have been forced to flee their homes, invading residential neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee as the Mississippi River continues to swell to record flood levels.

"You'll see your wildlife moving and, of course, their nature is to move to the higher, drier ground ... We'll see this for another couple of weeks," Bob Nations, Director of Shelby County Tennessee's Office of Preparedness, told ABC News.  "[It] probably will have a huge impact on our wildlife in this part of the county."

Residents of flooded areas have had to deal with electrical currents, chemicals and sewage in the water, but also wildlife scrambling for safety.  Tennesseans have had to be careful of rampaging deer but the real danger lies with water moccasins, also known as cottonmouths.

The venomous snakes are known to be aggressive when agitated, opening their mouths wide to reveal a white lining and deadly fangs when confronted.  The snakes are semi-aquatic vipers found near or in water, and are strong swimmers.

"They can cause a fairly serious bite," Dr. James Murphy of Smithsonian National Zoo said to ABC News.  "It's normally not fatal, but there's an enourmous amount of tissue damage.  In fact, I've seen photographs of bites and it looks like somebody's arm has been put in a drill."

The snakes have apparently been popping up everywhere, sometimes clinging to the trees.  People returning to their homes after the flooding subsides might encounter them.

Water moccasins are not the only wildlife threat for residents. The flood waters also contain alligators, spiders, rats and even fire ants, according to experts.

Tennessee wildlife groups have been fielding dozens of calls from worried residents.  The Shelby County Health Department has issued a special alert, warning its residents to be particularly wary of snakes as a veritable jungle of critters scrambles to find safe ground.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Mississippi River Floods Cause More Evacuations in Tennessee

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The Mississippi River is expected to rise to historic levels this week, leaving thousands of families from Arkansas to Tennessee with no option other than to abandon their homes.

As of Monday morning, the Mississippi River has risen to 47.6 feet and is expected to crest at 48 feet later in the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Previously, the Army Corp of Engineers expected the river to rise to a record level of 48 feet early Tuesday morning -- the record crest in 1937 was 48.7 feet.

Wary of such dangers, Memphis, Tennessee Mayor A C Wharton warned residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

"Right now, it seems flooding is mostly related to uninhabited areas, but as the waters of the Wolf, the Loosahatchie, and Nonconnah Creek could rise with additional rainfall, we must alert nearby residents to the dangers," Wharton said.

Memphis officials said on Sunday that around 1,300 families have been told to evacuate their homes, and 370 people are already staying in shelters.

Northwestern Tennessee was deemed safe from floods Sunday, but the high rivers forced cities and counties south along the Mississippi River to close roads.

"We got at least 91 locations according to the engineers that we need to check out and from there we have to make a decision on which ones have to be closed," Shelby County, Tennessee, official Percy Sheldon said.

Beale Street, the historic birthplace of the blues, is now filled with several feet of water.  Farmlands and key historic areas have also been swallowed up by the deep waters, and the city could continue to have to deal with extensive flooding.

In Louisiana, officials, residents and volunteers made advanced preparations, like piling up sandbags, and will now wait to see if their state's network of levees withstands waters that are expected to reach 25 feet deep and spill over seven parishes.

As of Sunday morning, the National Weather Service reported moderate flooding near Red River Landing and Baton Rouge.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

Mississippi River Expected to Crest in Memphis Early Tuesday

Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects[dot]net/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The Mississippi River continues to rise in Memphis, Tennessee, with forecasts predicting that the river will crest sometime early Tuesday morning.

Officials predict that the river will get up to 48 feet, just seven inches shy of its all-time flood high set back in 1937.

Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam has asked President Obama to declare 15 counties as federal disaster areas as the river continues to rise. Should the president grant Haslam’s request, those areas designated as disaster areas would have access to federal assistance programs. Haslam declared a state of emergency on April 26, in light of the forecast of the Mississippi River flooding.

On Saturday the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency issued a flood warning, advising area residents to wrap up precautionary actions in the coming days and be prepared to evacuate.

The Mississippi River is expected to remain above flood stage Memphis until May 25.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Army Corps Breaks Open Missouri Levee to Save Town

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (file photo)(CAIRO, Ill.) -- The Army Corps of Engineers activated the first set of explosions at the Birds Point, Missouri levee late Monday in an effort to save Cairo, Illinois from disastrous flooding.

Overnight, with a thunderous boom and a brilliant flash against a black sky, the corps set off the charges and turned 130,000 acres of farmland into a muddy lake and lowered the Mississippi River by three to four feet.

"[The Cairo levee] continues to be under enormous and unprecedented pressure," said Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh during a news conference Monday.

The Corps' explosives experts exploded the two-mile hole in the levee sometime between 9 p.m. and midnight.

"We have executed the first phase of our operation, the first point in the flood plain project," said Col. Vernie Reichling, the commander of the Memphis District Army Corps of Engineers.

The flooded farmland includes about 90 homes.

The deliberate breach is intended to take pressure off other levees protecting Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where river levels this week surged past a record set in 1937.

Cairo, which used to boast a population that exceeded 15,000 in Mark Twain's day, now has approximately 2,800 residents.

The corps is expected to detonate more explosives at the southern end of the floodway to drain the water from the farmlands. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May022011

Flood Fight: Army Corps to Blast Open Missouri Levee

Comstock/Thinkstock(BIRDS POINT, Mo.) -- The Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to activate explosions at the Birds Point, Mo., levee, which could save Cairo, Ill., from disastrous flooding, but at the cost of some of America's richest farmland.

"Public safety remains the No. 1 issue for the corps of engineers," Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said Monday during a news conference, announcing his decision to go forward with the project.

"[The Cairo levee] continues to be under enormous and unprecedented pressure," he said. "The Cairo gauge has gone up a foot and a half since yesterday. It's going to continue to rise."

The corps' explosives experts will blow a two-mile hole in the levee sometime between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Once the explosives are detonated, Mississippi River water will flood 130,000 acres of prime farmland that includes about 90 homes. Army Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said letting water escape from the swollen river should "lower the Mississippi by anywhere from 3 to 7 feet."

The idea is to take pressure off other levees protecting Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where river levels this week rose past a record set in 1937.

Cairo, whose population exceeded 15,000 in Mark Twain's day, is a ghost of what it was as a booming riverboat-era port town. The city currently has approximately 2,800 residents, most of whom have already evacuated, according to Mayor Judson Childs.

Missouri farmers in the water's path are outraged by the decision. Bill Feezor, who farms 2,500 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans near Birds Point, said he fears the flooding.

"It will ruin my farm," he said. "This is my whole life."

Farmers such as Feezor worry about a toxic stew of diesel fuel, propane, fertilizer and pesticides that, they believe, will cover their land once river water rushes in.

Twenty-four hours after the first explosion, the corps plans to detonate more explosives at the southern end of the floodway to drain the water from the farmlands.

Missouri officials fought the move in court, but U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, Jr.-- siding with Illinois and Kentucky -- ruled that the corps had the right to breach the levee to protect Cairo. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an emergency appeal from Missouri's attorney general.

For Cairo's mayor, the decision was "a no-brainer."

"What's more important, land or lives?" Childs said. "You can replace land. You can't replace lives."

Walsh on Monday cautioned that this levee explosion would be just the beginning as the corps continues watching pressure levels.

"This doesn't end this historic flood," he said. "This is just the beginning."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Seven Dead, Thousands Without Power After Storms Hit Southeast

WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, NC(HOPKINSVILLE, Ky.) -- Powerful and fast-moving storms powered through the South Monday night, bringing high winds, hail and lightning with them. At least seven people were killed, while several hundred thousand woke up Tuesday without power. Within just one 10-minute period, there were 1,500 lightning strikes, causing three fires in Georgia.

The storms were part of a system that cut a wide swath from the Mississippi River across the southeast to Georgia and the Carolinas on Monday and early Tuesday, marching eastward.

At a factory in Hopkinsville, Ky., a tornado sent seven workers to the hospital after it tore through a wall.

At least 20 tornadoes touched down overnight following warnings that were put out in 10 states.

The storms continued to move across the Carolinas early Tuesday morning, still packing enough punch to knock down trees and damage power lines. Parts of states further north, including Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia also reported power outages.

Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines told ABC News he thinks this storm has largely passed. It currently presents a threat to southern Florida, but it is no longer the angry beast that swept through so much of the country.

Trouble is brewing in the Northwest however, as a cold front moves into that sector in the next 24 hours, bringing unusually cold temperatures. Kines said the system could mix with warmer Gulf air in the plains states, threatening the South with more severe weather this weekend.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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