On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the Steele Bayou Control Structure once again, trapping floodwaters in the long-suffering lower Yazoo Basin, also known as the backwater.
In the past few days, the levels in the backwater have ticked up a few tenths of an inch. Waters in the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers have also risen, necessitating the gate’s closure to prevent additional flooding in the backwater.
Experts expect that these conditions may persist into the weekend.
The Mississippi River has been above flood stage since February due to snow melt and unprecedented amounts of rain in the north. The USACE Vicksburg District closed the gates at Steele Bayou Feb. 15, when water on the gate’s river side was higher than the land side.
But Mississippi also experienced unprecedented levels of rainfall early this year, thoroughly saturating the ground and causing the Yazoo River, which feeds into the Mississippi at Vicksburg, to flood as well. With the Steele Bayou gates closed, the Yazoo Backwater north of the city began to flood.
On March 8, the Warren County Board of Supervisors declared a flood emergency in anticipation of ever-more-disastrous flooding and ordered a mandatory evacuation of Eagle Lake, which some residents chose not to obey. Sunday marked the community’s fourth month under water, with half the homes and all of its lake access structures estimated to be severely damaged. The backwater reached a level of more than 98 feet, the highest since 1973, in mid-May.
The Corps has opened the gates at Steele Bayou on a few occasions since February, most recently on June 20, when the riverside level dropped lower than the landside, but when the levels reversed, it had to close the gates.
Engineers with the Corps expect water levels in the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers to fall again this week, creating conditions for the gates to re-open. “The Mississippi should start falling tomorrow, and it should take a day or two to go back,” said Drew Smith, USACE Vicksburg District Chief of Water Management, adding that the Corps will reopen the gates “more than likely Thursday, and possibly Friday.”
Updated to add information from the USACE.See a typo? Report it here.