Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flood 2011: From Rescue to Recovery

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM

The Mississippi River is falling about eight inches a day and could be back in its banks by Memorial Day.

That was the report Monday from officials at the daily briefing on the Great Flood of 2011.

As the water recedes, the response is shifting from rescue to recovery. Starting Tuesday evening, responders will go to a shorter schedule at the operations center, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of round-the-clock. This week there is only one daily briefing instead of two. The crowds in the briefing are smaller and the reports are fewer. The national media has shifted its attention downriver to Mississippi and Louisiana.

Bob Nations, director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, said Monday "the cleanup looks like it will be fairly massive." He said some 700 mobile homes were flooded to the rooftops and are probably uninhabitable. They may have to be cut up and crushed. The receding water is revealing debris left behind. Nations used words like "messy," "nasty" and "just plain stinks" to describe the scene in badly flooded areas.

The National Weather Service said the river was at 44.8 feet Monday, or three feet below its crest, and should be at 42 feet on Friday. Flood stage is 34 feet, which could be hit by Memorial Day.

The briefings over the past few weeks consist of various departments giving their reports. The local Red Cross has been conspicuosly absent from the daily briefings. Instead, faith-based organizations are giving reports and providing shelters, although the Red Cross Mid-South Tennessee Region at one time also had three shelters open in Memphis and one in Tunica. It now has one shelter in Memphis.

Nations characterized the Red Cross as playing a "support role."

Nancy Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said "every operation and every political situation is different." She said Red Cross response in Memphis has also included meals, cots, blankets, nurses, and mobile support units. But the Red Cross has not had overall responsibility for shelters, as it did following Hurricane Katrina.

The Red Cross carefully screens volunteers and does background checks because they will be dealing with a "vulnerable population," Rodriguez said. It is not clear whether all volunteers at faith-based centers have undergone background checks. More than 500 people were in shelters last week when the flooding was at its worst.

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