This morning, Governor Phil Bryant joined the Federal & Mississippi Emergency Management Agencies to survey the ongoing damage caused by the flooding in the Mississippi Delta.
During a press conference, the Governor stated that over 550,000 acres in the Delta remain underwater, over 200,000 of which are agricultural lands.
The flooding has persisted due to the rising levels of the Mississippi River and the Yazoo backwaters following the severe storms in December 2018 and February 2019.
This morning I toured Mississippi River and backwater flooding in the Delta w/ @MSEMA, @fema and @nationalguardMS. 550,000 acres are under water in the state. Homes, travel, agriculture, wildlife and more have all been affected. pic.twitter.com/FhyAuc36A6
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) April 3, 2019
Mississippi River and backwater flooding from the Delta today. I viewed affected areas with @MSEMA, @fema, and the @nationalguardMS. The most flooding seen there since the 1970s. pic.twitter.com/8UpD3pzEBL
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) April 3, 2019
The Steele Bayou Control Structure was opened by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this week, allowing some of the water to slowly move out. Greg Michel, the Executive Director of MEMA, said that the level of the Mississippi River remains just above 48 feet, but a break in the rain may allow for it to drop with the opening of the structure.
“It appears that the Mississippi River is going to stay well below 48 feet at somewhere around 46 feet through the end of this month. That will certainly assist the backwater drainage coming out of the Steele Bayou Control Structure, but it is going to take a long time for that water to come out of there,” he said.
With area residents affected by the flooding, federal disaster declarations are pending. Terry Quarles, the Regional Recovery Division Director with FEMA, said that if you’re dealing with damage to your home or property, notify your insurance company, and if you have to spend money, make sure you keep your receipts.
With the amount of farmland underwater, Governor Bryant stated that the floods could have a lasting impact on the area’s economy.
“This is a major weather event throughout the state of Mississippi,” the Governor said. “The agricultural industry will be severely affected moving forward.”
Michel echoed that by saying that even when the waters recede, the amount of time that the land has been flooded may prevent certain crops from being planted for several years. He also added that preliminary estimates show over $30 million in damages to the area.
During the press conference, Governor Bryant noted that the EPA is reviewing the 2008 veto of the ‘Yazoo Pumps Project’, which would have been a $220 million flood-control project in the Delta. Michel stated that if the pumps were in place, they would’ve brought the backwater flooding down by at least 5 feet.
@EPAAWheeler, for agreeing to review the veto and thank you to @SenHydeSmith for her continued support of this project that will help the people of the Mississippi Delta who are struggling with this historic flooding,” he tweeted afterward.
The project was vetoed following an environmental impact study, but the Governor stated that the severity of the flooding is an indication of how important the installation of the pumps would be.
“What I am looking at is trying to stop these types of events from occurring next year or two years from now,” Governor Bryant said. “As I told Admiral [Doug] Fears, my concern is not just this year’s flood, but the flood of 2024 or the flood of 2028, and we can mitigate those flood events if we go to work now,” Governor Bryant said.
Governor Bryant has been in contact with Admiral Fears and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue in D.C. as recovery efforts continue in the region.
Recently, Ray Coleman with MEMA stated that as flood waters continue to cause road closures and possible evacuation orders, it’s important to follow the advice of local officials.
“If they call for a mandatory evacuation, you’ve got to get out. We understand that folks want to protect their homes and their property, but your life is far more important,” he said. “So, understand that when they close off roads to your neighborhood, they’re not doing it to inconvenience you, they’re literally doing it as a life-saving measure.”
Temporary housing shelters are currently open in Charleston, Columbus, Indianola, Vicksburg and Yazoo City.
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