Preparing for the Flood

Memphis-area residents take steps to stay safe as the Mississippi River rises

May 09, 2011

Residents in and around Memphis, Tennessee, spent the weekend preparing for a destructive flood. The swollen Mississippi River was originally expected to crest, or reach its high point, on Tuesday. But now forecasters say the river could crest as early as Monday night.

Memphis mayor AC Wharton says the city has already taken the necessary steps to prepare. "Fortunately we're ready for it," Wharton told the Early Show on CBS.

Steps for Safety

Authorities spent the weekend knocking on doors to tell people they should leave before they are swamped by river water. Wharton said previous disasters have shown that issuing warnings on TV is not enough. "Door-to-door is a key thing that we're doing," he said. In all, residents in more than 1,300 homes have been told to evacuate.

Colonel Vernie Reichling, Army Corps of Engineers commander for Memphis, said the homes in most danger of flooding are in areas not protected by levees. Levees are man-made structures built to keep a river from overflowing. About 150 Corps workers have been monitoring the barriers. "There should be no concern for any levees to fail," said Reichling.

Record-Reaching Levels

Due to heavy rains and snowmelt, the river has already reached record levels in some areas upstream. Near Memphis, the river is expected to crest at or near 48 feet—just inches shy of the 48.7-foot record set by a devastating 1937 flood.

"That's what I can see from all the gauges," said Gene Rench, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. "I'm so glad it's not going higher."


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