1,100+ evacuated as river keeps rising

Farmers decry levee destruction as raging MS River concerns river-front cities

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) | May 9, 2011

Memphis Monday braced for near-record flooding as the Mississippi River raged toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to open a spillway 28 miles north of New Orleans to reduce the onslaught, diverting water to Lake Ponchartrain, CNN reported.

Levee systems in Memphis were holding after the corps blasted holes in levees at Cairo, Ill., sparing residents there while flooding 130,000 acres of prime farmland in Missouri. Water levels hit 47.7 feet in Memphis Sunday and by Tuesday were expected to top 48 feet -- just shy of the 48.7-foot 1937 record, the National Weather Service said.

More than 1,100 people have been ordered evacuated along with numerous farm animals, Shelby County officials told WREG, Memphis.

"This water that we're seeing coming by is moving 2 million cubic feet per second," corps Col. Vernie Reichling told WREG. "To use an analogy, in one second that water would fill up a football field 44 feet deep."

"(On Sunday,) we managed to contain the wicked river for the most part," said Reichling, who was the person who made the decision on how to blow the Birds Point levee to save Cairo.

Reichling blamed the crisis on a two-week stretch in which the area received six times more precipitation than usual.

Reichling said the corps has 150 engineers checking levees and flood walls for even the smallest breach.

In Missouri, Marilynn Nally said she felt like she was being victimized by the corps' actions.

"I'm very sad. I look at that and I don't have a home," Nally said. "I feel like we're having to suffer for somebody else."

Eloise Burton, who lives about 25 miles away, in Metropolis, Ill., mourned the loss of her home.

"It's sad to think about all these years. We've lost everything," Burton said.

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