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Flood Clean Up Begins in Natchez

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 08 Jun 2011 03:33pm | comments
A line on the trees in Carl Dunn's front yard mark the high point of the flood.

Water from the historic Mississippi River Flood is slowly receding, giving families driven from their homes by rising water a first look at the damage. In Natchez, the river crested nearly three feet above the previous record set in 1937. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that early efforts are already underway to clean up the mess left by the flood.

Carl Dunn walks the dirt covered floor of his Adams County home, examining and estimating the damage that the flood left behind.

"See how it is doing with this wall? This paneling is a whole lot worse. I won't know what kind of damage is done until I cut it out and look at it," Dunn said.

Dunn has shared this rural house with his wife for nearly 40 years and in that time the Mississippi River has never flooded into their home.

This year, the record flooding filled the house with nearly two feet of water.

"That water was right here," Dunn points to a gray line on his wall, "You couldn't see the bottom of this window outside. That is how high the water got, right there."

A gray line around the interior of the home marks the height of the flood which warped floor boards, ruined paneling and potentially destroyed the thick wooden beams that support the home.

Dunn says he is waiting to see how much his flood insurance will cover and if they can save the home.

'We have got a lot to do. I just have to wait and see what they tell me when they get here. When they do that then I will know what I have got to do. But I hope it is not going to be as bad as I think it is going to be up underneath there. If that stuff will dry out and you can get the mold off of it, you are in good shape. But if you can't get the mold off of it, you are in bad shape," Dunn said.

The Dunns emptied all their belongings out the house before the flood.

They have been living out of an RV for the last three weeks with no idea when they will be able to return home.

Carl's wife Barbara says the experience has been stressful but the couple will rely on each other and God for support.

"It’s bad but we have been through worse. We lost a son, we got through that and we will get through this with God's help. He has been merciful and, of course, God always takes care of his people," Dunn said.

Water from the Mississippi River is still lapping near Silver Street in Natchez, which is a River side tourist destination where some of the buildings have stood for hundreds of years.

The business owners built a flood wall which protected the historic sites and their livelihoods.

John Parks owns The Magnolia Grill on Sliver Street...Parks says he had to shut down for four days but without the barrier, the flood would likely have completely destroyed his business.

"This actual building is 20 years old but the one next to it is 200 years old. And we share a common wall and the wall is older as well, and it would have probably have crumbled," Parks said.

Parks says business at his restaurant was cut nearly in half due to construction of the flood wall and a decrease in tourism to the area, but he expects customers to return once people realize the waters have receded.

Crews are now working to remove the 1500-hundred yards of sand that filled the wire and canvas baskets that created the flood wall along Silver Street.

Construction worker Bruce Patterson says it takes a mighty effort to move the 4 million pounds of sand used to form the barrier.

"Each basket consists of 5 separate section and it has got 12 hook ups on it and it takes 6 people to hook up each basket when you go to lift them out," Patterson said.

The water level is slowly dropping uncovering more damage all along the Mississippi River but Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton says in this case, slower might be better.

"It is going down and it is going down at a steady rate, a slow rate. We wanted it to go down, but if you go down too fast we think we will have more erosion problems. So it is really dropping at a level that we are pretty satisfied with," Middleton said.

By the most recent account, FEMA has distributed more than 4-million dollars to cover roughly 32-hundred Mississippi homes affected by the flood-a number that could rise.

Mississippi third-district congressman Greg Harper, whose district includes Adams County, says congress could end up approving special money to help the south recovery from the recent outbreak of severe weather and flooding.

"Whether it was flooding or tornados, I think you could see that come out together. I think we could come out with a way to offset that so that it is no new indebtedness. But I think we are going to be moving in that direction," Harper said.

That money could help individuals but it could also be used to dredge silt out of the ports that line the Mississippi river or repair any damage done to the extensive levee system during the historic flood.


A line on the trees in Carl Dunn's front yard mark the high point of the flood.



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