Monday, May 9, 2011

River Approaches 48-foot Stage

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Mud Island River Park
The Mississippi River flood of 2011 went viral over the weekend, with television reporters for all of the major networks donning waders to report from low-lying areas in Memphis. That caused a combination of amusement and exasperation for local officials as the river passed 47.7 feet on the Memphis gage, one foot below the all-time record set in 1937.

"I want to say this," said Bob Nations, director of the Shelby County Office of Emergency Preparedness at the Monday morning briefing. "Graceland is safe. And we would charge hell with water pistols to keep it that way."

Even as television monitors in the briefing room showed a reporter for the Weather Channel standing in floodwaters, Nations pleaded with the media to "stay out of the water." There was a carnival-like atmosphere in downtown Memphis on Sunday, with families and children playing near or even in the shallow floodwaters just off of the sidewalks to take historic pictures.

More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday in the Memphis area. Officials say it could take two weeks for the river to fall below flood stage of 34 feet once the crest is reached.

Nations said that the property damage can't be determined yet.

"It's going to be a nasty one, it's going to be an expensive one."

But he emphasized that local infrastucture, government, levees, and the interstate system are functioning well.

"By and large, our community is operating like we do any other time."

There are a total of 383 people in three local shelters that have opened. Most of the flooding in the Memphis area has been in a small section of HarborTown on the harbor side and in the northern and southern parts of the city and Shelby County. The intersection of North Watkins and Highway 51 is closed and there is flooding in Northaven.

"There is a fascination with the Mississippi River, but we have to look at our tributaries because that is where our highest impact would be," he said.

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