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May 14, 2011 2:28 PM by Chris Welty

Onlookers Crowd Vicksburg to Look at Rising River

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Larry and Paulla Dalrymple spent part of
their Saturday in Vicksburg with a video camera filming the rising
Mississippi River that is expected to crest at 57.5 feet Thursday.
The Brandon couple had been at the area a couple of weeks ago
and they wanted to come back to see how high the river had risen.
.The couple watched the river roll past the Ameristar casino ad
swirl around the giant pilings of the river bridge on Interstate
20.
"Wow. It's really running,"' Paulla said. "It's amazing what
the water can do ... what it's doing to people's lives."
They were among a steady stream of onlookers, who by the dozens
gathered scenic river overlooks. Groups came on motorcycles;
others, families and young couples watched the river and posed next
to a Civil War cannon at the National Park and Cemetery that sits
on the bluff next to the river. Some carried Confederate battle
flags being given away by a Civil War re-enactor.
James Mims, 50, drove with his wife, son and 3 grandchildren
about an hour from Calhoun, La., to Vicksburg. The family posed for
pictures on a river bluff overlooking a bridge that connects the
two states and a casino.
Mims said he was making memories with his son and grandchildren
that they'll carry throughout their lives.
"It's history in the making and we're seeing it happen," Mims
said.
Vicksburg was the site of one of the Civil War's pivotal
battles. Union forces seized control of the river and cutoff roads
preventing the retreat of Confederate soldiers. That was May 16,
1863. Now, nearly 148 years later to the day, the areas in a sense
under another siege.
The river is predicted to crest at 57.5 feet at Vicksburg on
Thursday. Farther down the river, the crest is expected to be 64
feet on May 21 at Natchez.
Army engineers prepared Saturday to slowly open the gates of an
emergency spillway along the rising Mississippi River, diverting
floodwaters from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, yet inundating homes
and farms in parts of Louisiana's populated Cajun country.
About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm's way
when the Morganza spillway is unlocked for the first time in 38
years. Sheriffs and National Guardsmen were warning people in a
door-to-door sweep through the area, and shelters were ready to
accept up to 4,800 evacuees, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.
Some people living in the threatened stretch of countryside - an
area known for small farms, fish camps and a drawling French
dialect - have already started fleeing for higher ground.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh with the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers said during a river tour in Vicksburg that the tough
decisions being made to deal with Mississippi River flooding, such
as opening the Morganza Spillway in Louisiana, were put in motion
decades ago when the river system was designed.
"Protecting lives is the No. 1 priority," Walsh.
Walsh said the entire Mississippi River and its tributaries are
part of a flood plan largely put into motion in the 1930s in the
aftermath of the devastating 1927 flood that killed hundreds. The
Yazoo and Mississippi rivers converge at Vicksburg, and have been
the source of some of the worst flooding in Mississippi.
"It's still going to be a marathon. It's not going to be a
quick run as this system brings the most water ever," he said.
As Walsh spoke, flooding was visible from the ship in the town
of Vicksburg. Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said at least five
neighborhoods have taken on water in Vicksburg and the county.
"We're patrolling subdivisions by boat," Pace said Friday.
Gov. Haley Barbour, arriving in Vicksburg on Friday after a
flyover of the Delta, said it was time for people in areas of
potential danger to get out.
"Move what you can, elevate things that can be elevated, tie
down what can float, but most of all, evacuate to save your own
life," Barbour said. "We're asking people to get out before the
crest, while they still can. This is the last weekend people can do
that," Barbour said.
Barbour said some National Guardsmen would be deployed by Sunday
into areas of Warren, Sharkey, Humphreys, Yazoo, Issaquena and
Washington counties to assist local and state agencies.

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