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Mississippi Delta Farmers Prepare For Massive Flood Losses

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 May 2011 04:09pm | comments
Residents of Sharkey County closely examine flood maps.

Farmers in Mississippi's delta counties are preparing to count their losses from the coming flood. New flood estimates put large swaths of prime, recently planted land underwater. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on what the farmers plan to do when the waters rise.

More than 900-hundred thousand acres of Mississippi farmland are expected to be washed out be the approaching Mississippi River flood.

In Rolling Fork sand bagging is underway in preparation for the flood and more than a thousand people packed the Armory there to hear about the flood predictions.

The army Corp displayed large maps showing residents where the water will likely go.

Michael Lee is supporting his wife and two young daughters as a mechanic on a farm in Southern Sharkey County. Lee expects to lose more than half the farm, but has been promised work until the flood forces them to leave.

"But it is always a chance that something bad could go wrong and I will be out of work for several months. (reporter: do you have a back up plan for that?) No, not as of right now we don't and I am the only income that we got. And It ain't much but we survive I guess. But it is getting tougher," Lee said.

Teresa Welch learned for the first time that the flood will swallow her home, forcing her to leave with her mother, her husband, and her three kids.

"I have a little money saved up we were going to use for vacation. I am hoping we will can get most of his tools loaded up and out so at least he will be able to work when we go....wherever we go. I am hoping because that is all the money we have. I have no insurance on our house. No flood insurance on our house," Welch said.

The area is protected by an intricate system of levees and the integrity of those levees is a major concern for the farmers...even for farmers on high ground like Randy New.

"Some of the lower end will get some probably. But for the most part we are right on the high bank of Lake Jackson. As long as the main levee don't break we will be fine. (reporter: what if it does break?) Well, we are probably all screwed then," New said.

Failure of one levee in particular, known as the Yazoo Backwater levee, is estimated to cause an additional ten feet of flood water to pour in and decimate much of the region.

The Army Corp told the crowd they are reinforcing that levee and are cautiously confident that it will hold.

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Residents of Sharkey County closely examine flood maps.


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