President declares disaster as river rises to historic levels

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Gov. Haley Barbour today announced 11 counties along the Mississippi River have been declared federal disaster areas in anticipation of major flooding.

The counties declared include Adams, Bolivar, Claiborne, Coahoma, Desoto, Issaquena, Jefferson, Tunica, Warren, Washington and Wilkinson. Other counties will be added as appropriate.

“This will be a monumental flood, and I ask residents to take this risk seriously and make evacuation plans,” Barbour said. “I appreciate the quick review by President Obama and FEMA leaders, and I know they will give similar consideration to our request to add counties impacted by backwater flooding.”

Barbour said yesterday the state could see monumental flooding when the Mississippi River crests later this month, and he’s urging people to evacuate low-lying areas, particularly in the south Delta.

Barbour said all counties along the Mississippi are predicted to have some flooding in mid-May. He said the worst could be in the Yazoo backwater in a triangle formed by Vicksburg, Rolling Fork and the Yazoo River in Yazoo County.

“These are going to be historic levels of flooding,” Barbour said.

The state won’t provide assistance for the evacuations, although authorities will prepare temporary shelters for several thousand people who could be out of their homes for several weeks, he said. Nursing homes and hospitals are required to have evacuation plans.

Residents who need help moving their belongings and securing their property should rely on friends, relatives or even strangers willing to lend a hand, he said.

Barbour said people should not remain in their homes or wait until roads are covered with water before they try to leave.

Engineers say the Mississippi River levees are expected to hold in his state, but floodwaters will go over the top of the Yazoo backwater levees.

Barbour said the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant in Claiborne County won’t flood, but roads leading to the plant might go under water. The plant is about 25 miles south of Vicksburg.

The governor said as many as 1,400 square-miles of crop lands could flood statewide, and losses could exceed $100 million.

He said the Mississippi River at Vicksburg is likely to be higher than it was during the flood of 1927. Levees failed near Greenville in 1927, inundating the Delta but sparing Vicksburg what could have been a much larger catastrophe.

Source: Governor’s Office, AP

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