Obama declares disaster, roads closing due to floodwaters

MISSISSIPPI DELTA — Gov. Haley Barbour announced that the 14 counties affected by the Mississippi River flooding have been declared major disaster areas eligible for Individual Assistance by President Obama.

The counties included in the major disaster declaration include Adams, Bolivar, Claiborne, Coahoma, DeSoto, Jefferson, Humphreys, Issaquena, Sharkey, Tunica, Warren, Washington, Wilkinson and Yazoo counties. Other counties may be added as appropriate.

Barbour said, “The flooding situation will last for several weeks, and this declaration gives Mississippians in flooded areas access to federal assistance that can help families through this difficult time.”

The White House continues to have under review a request for Public Assistance for state and local governments. Barbour said he is confident when the review is complete, the federal government will determine President Obama should approve the request.

The disaster declaration makes federal assistance grants and programs available to individuals. Assistance includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, USDA food coupons and distribution, disaster legal services, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Small Business Administration disaster loans for affected residents in the 14 declared counties.

In another flood-related item, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District has completed the covering of the Yazoo Back Water Levee high-density polyethylene. The Corps took this precautionary measure to ensure limited erosion.

The Yazoo Back Water Levee is key to controlling flooding in the South Delta. If the levee were to break, it would flood an area covering roughly one million acres.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Mississippi Water Science Center is working to provide emergency information on the flow and water level of the Mississippi River and its tributaries at critical locations throughout the State of Mississippi.

The USGS is installing an emergency gage to monitor the Mississippi River’s water level near Hillhouse between Memphis and Greenville. USGS crews are being dispatched to the Mississippi Delta to measure water velocity along levees and to advise the levee board where high velocities are occurring.

USGS boat crews will assist the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by making supplemental measurements as the crest moves south. The USGS Mississippi Water Science Center will continue to work during peak flows to maintain gages and verify their accuracy, and to take supplemental measurements.

Currently, crews are collecting discharge measurements and water samples along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and along the Yazoo River at Redwood. They are repairing the Long Lake gage near the Steele Bayou on the Yazoo River, and are raising equipment in the gage house to levels above the predicted peak flood stage.

USGS crews from Mississippi are also in Arkansas and Memphis to assist USGS partners in flood protection with discharge measurements and water quality sampling.

Real-time data are continually needed, particularly during flood emergencies. USGS field crews work before, during and after storms and floods, to install additional streamgages as needed, keep streamgages operating, verify the accuracy of streamgage information, and take supplemental measurements at ungaged sites.

Field crews continue to work as waters recede, gathering high water marks for post flood analysis. This information is important because it is used by planners to mitigate the loss if life and property from future floods.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation has released updated roadway information regarding the Mississippi River high floodwaters.

Current road closures include SR 24 in Wilkinson County near Fort Adams and SR 465 in Warren and Issaquena counties between U.S. 61 and Eagle Lake. Both are closed until further notice.

Probable future road closures include:

• U.S. 61 in Warren and Claiborne counties south of Vicksburg and north of Port Gibson, at the Big Black River crossing (May 14)

• (Urgent) U.S. 61 in Warren County north of Vicksburg at the U.S. 61/SR 3 intersection near Redwood remains open but is being affected by flood waters; closure is imminent in the next 24 to 36 hours (as of May 11)

• U.S. 61 in Warren County north of Vicksburg at the U.S. 61/SR 3 intersection near Redwood — estimated closure date is May 13

• U.S. 61 in Warren County north of Vicksburg at the U.S. 61/SR 465 intersection north of Yazoo River Bridge near Redwood — estimated closure date is May 13.

• SR 3 in Warren County approximately 2.3 miles north of the U.S. 61/SR 3 intersection — estimated closure date is May 15.

• SR 3 in Yazoo County starting approximately 0.65 miles north of the SR 3/SR 433 intersection and continuing northward for two miles near Satartia — estimated closure date is May 19

• SR 16/SR 149 (Old Highway 49 West) in Yazoo County at Whittington Auxiliary Channel near Wolf Lake to Yazoo River Between Whittington Levee & Erickson Rd. estimated closure date is May 12. Between Erickson Road and Yazoo River estimated closure date is May 14; US 49W in Humphreys and Yazoo counties at Wittington Auxiliary Channel south of Silver City to Yazoo River – estimated closure date is May 16

• SR 1 in Sharkey and Issaquena counties west of U.S. 61 at the SR 1/SR 465 intersection — no estimated date available at this time.

• SR 16/County Road 16 in Sharkey County in the vicinity of Delta National Forrest — no estimated date available at this time

Roads predicted to remain open include:

• SR 3 in Yazoo County at Yazoo City

• U.S. 49E in Yazoo and Holmes counties north of Eden

• US 49E in Yazoo County near Mississippi Chemical

Source: Gov. Haley Barbour, USGS, MEMA

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