Iowa Public Television


Delta Farmers Watch Flood Waters Rise

posted on May 19, 2011

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. A private research group predicts a few bumps in the road to economic recovery this summer.

The Conference Board reported this week its index of leading economic indicators fell 0.3 percent in April, due to rising unemployment and a slumping housing sector.

Separately, the National Association of Realtors reported existing home sales, declined 1 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just over 5 million.

Construction of new housing projects plunged more than 10.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 523,000 units. And new building permits -- a barometer of future construction -- dropped 4.0 percent last month.

Economists say it will be years before the pace of building returns to a more healthy level of more than a million units a year, but folks along the southern portion of the Mississippi River may find themselves building a bit sooner...

Millions of acres from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico have been decimated and 10,000 people are homeless due to epic flooding.

Delta Farmers Watch Flood Waters Rise

In order to protect the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers opened floodgates for the first time in nearly 4 decades. The gates, located about 40 miles north of the Louisiana capitol of Baton Rouge, diverted rising water into the nearby Atchafalaya (ah-CHAF-fah-Lie-ah) River. Closer to the Gulf, the Mississippi River is being allowed to flow into Lake Ponchatrain to protect New Orleans from yet another in a series of natural disasters.

In Natchez, Mississippi, the U.S. Coast Guard closed a 15-mile section of the Mighty Miss. Officials were concerned passing tow boats would put too much pressure on nearby levees. After further testing determined slower speeds would not affect sandbag dikes or earthen levees, traffic was allowed to flow once again. Economists have yet to calculate the cost of barge traffic slow-down but it could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. And the officials with the Port of New Orleans warned flooding disruptions could cut operations by half, costing the U.S. economy up to $350 million a day.

Private natural resources groups like Delta Wildlife also have been observing the rising waters which are expected to come over the top of the levee this weekend. Trey Cooke is the Executive Director of Delta Wildlife whose mission is to conserve, enhance, and restore native wildlife habitats in the Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi.

Trey Cooke, Delta Wildlife: "It's really unimaginable for most people that haven't seen this. There's water in places that have not been there in modern history. It's really amazing to see the acres of cropland, and farmland and forest land that's already inundated and we're not even to crest yet."

In Mississippi, farmers prepared for the Yazoo River, a tributary of the Mississippi, to crest. Pete Harper was racing against time to harvest his wheat even as the floodwaters were rising.

Pete Harvey, Farm Manager, Norway Farms, Yazoo City: "There's about a foot of water in this field in the bottoms where at about 11:30 this morning there wasn't. And its' bout, what, 3:30 - - 4 o'clock this afternoon, it's comin' up fast."

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, this is the largest amount of water ever recorded moving down Old Muddy toward the Gulf. The river is expected to crest at levels not seen since catastrophic flooding struck the Delta in 1927 leaving 30,000 people homeless in its wake.


Tags: agriculture crops floods Mississippi River news rivers weather