Parts of the Mississippi Delta were flooding today, forcing people to flee their homes as thousands of others were trying to decide whether to stay or go as the river continued to swell.
The sliver of land in north-west Mississippi, home to hardship and bluesman Muddy Waters, is in the crosshairs of the slowly surging river, just like many other areas along the banks of the big river.
“We’re getting our mamma and daddy out,” said Ken Gelston, who helped pack furniture, photos and other belongings into pickup trucks in Greenville, Mississippi.
His parents’ house sits on Eagle Lake, which the Army Corps of Engineers expects to rise significantly.
“We could have 5 feet of water in there,” Gelston said, nodding at the house. “That’s what they’re telling us.”
To points much farther north, thousands face the decision of whether to stay or go as high water kept on rolling down the Mississippi and its tributaries, threatening to soak communities over the next week or two.
The flooding is already breaking high-water records that have stood since the 1930s.
In Rolling Fork, Mississippi, the birthplace of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, tension was high.
“It’s weird,” said Lakeysha Stamps, a waitress at the Highway 61 Cafe. “Here we are today and everything’s fine. And tomorrow there could be all this water!”
In Memphis, Tennessee, residents of a well-to-do enclave on Mud Island, which sits in the river, were getting too much of their beloved surroundings. Rising waters practically lapped at the back porches of some of the island’s expensive houses.
“I’m going to sleep thinking, ’I hope they don’t evacuate the island and we wake up and we’re the only ones here,”’ said Emily Tabor, a first-year student at the University of Tennessee’s College of Pharmacy in Memphis who lives on Mud Island.
The three-mile-long strip of land that is part of Memphis has about 1,500 homes and businesses and 6,000 mostly well-off residents, many of them living in gleaming, 20-year-old houses with wide river views and traditional Southern touches such as columns, porches and bay windows.
Emergency officials warned that residents may need to leave their homes as the river rises toward an expected crest Wednesday of 48 feet – about 3 feet higher than yesterday. The record in Memphis, 48.7 feet, was set in 1937.
Water pooled at the lowest end of Beale Street, the most famous thoroughfare in the history of the blues, but it was about a half-mile from the street’s popular restaurants, shops and bars and did not threaten any homes or businesses.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, the Army Corps of Engineers blew a third hole in a levee to relieve pressure and prevent catastrophic flooding there and in Illinois and Kentucky.
The Mississippi continued to rise in Caruthersville, where a high-mark set in 1937 was surpassed on Wednesday, but was generally going down elsewhere in the state.