Record Flooding To Linger In Mississippi City

The flood-swollen Mississippi River held at historic levels at Vicksburg early Thursday -- a status it's not expected to relinquish for days.

Hitting its expected peak of 57.1 feet hours ahead of the original forecast, the National Weather Service predicts the crest will hold through at least Saturday morning.

"Residents who live along the river need to keep an eye out and be vigilant," said Marty Pope, a senior hydrologist with the weather service's Jackson, Mississippi office. "We're not going to fall to the kind of levels we got to during the large 2008 flood until early June, and won't fall below flood stage until mid-to-late June."

The river, initially forecast to crest at Vicksburg Thursday morning, began cresting ahead of schedule Wednesday night probably because an old levee system in Greenville, Mississippi, was breached last Friday and spread the flood's flow, Pope said.

The Mississippi is more than 14 feet above flood stage at Vicksburg and more than a foot over the record set in the city in 1927.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was keeping a watchful eye on the Yazoo Backwater Levee, which residents near Vicksburg were counting on for protection. It is designed to keep water from backing into the Yazoo River delta.

The backwater levee was being "armored" by a heavy plastic coating to prevent it from washing out, said Charlie Tindall, attorney for the Board of Mississippi Levee Commissioners.

But the Yazoo River backwaters were already claiming territory and property. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was among residents who watched rising waters swallow their houses and lands Wednesday.