11-5-2011- Obama declaró ayer el estado de emergencia en parte de los 8 estados que atraviesa el Misisipi. En Memphis, el nivel de las aguas ha alcanzado máximos históricos y ha anegado la zona bajas de la ciudad. En Nueva Orleans, donde aún no se han cerrado las heridas que abrió el huracán Katrina, se preparan para lo peor.
- “Vi algo parecido en 1973”, comentaba apesadumbrado un vecino de la inundada Vicksburg. “Pensé que nunca se repetiría aquello, pero ahora es peor que en el 73”.
A mediados de abril de 2011, dos grandes sistemas de tormentas a través de la cuenca del río Misisipi arrojó un récord de precipitaciones. Junto con el deshielo anual, el río Misisipi comenzó a aumentar a niveles récord a principios de mayo. Áreas que sufren inundaciones son Illinois, Misuri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas y Misisipi. El Presidente Barack Obama declaró los Condados del Oeste de Kentucky, Tennessee y Misisipi como áreas de desastre federal.
Catorce personas murieron en Arkansas. Miles de hogares han sido ordenados de ser evacuados, incluyendo más de 1.000 en Memphis, Tennessee, y más de 2.000 en el Estado de Misisipi. Alrededor de un 13% de la producción de las refinerías de petróleo de EE.UU. se espera que se interrumpa por los niveles de inundación excediendo los récords históricos en varios lugares.
La cresta de la inundación se espera en Memphis el martes 10 de mayo y en el sur de Luisiana el 23 de mayo. El Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército de los Estados Unidos dijo que un área entre Simmesport, Luisiana y Baton Rouge estaría inundado con 6-9 metros de agua, incluso si se han abierto los vertederos. Jeff Masters de la Weather Underground dijo, "la Estructura de Control del Río Viejo... fracasó será un serio golpe a la economía de Estados Unidos, y la Gran Inundación del Río Misisipi de 2011 será su prueba más severa".
A partir del 14-16 de abril, la tormenta responsable de uno de las más grandes oleadas de tornados en la historia de EE.UU. también producía grandes cantidades de precipitaciones en todo el Sur de Estados Unidos y el Medio Oeste de Estados Unidos. Dos semanas más tarde, a partir 25-28 de abril, una segunda tormenta mortal pasó por el valle del Misisipi arrojando más precipitaciones resultando en inundaciones mortales. Esta tormenta también produjo más de 250 tornados, matando a 354 personas en la oleada de tornados más mortíferas desde 1925. Las tormentas combinadas mataron 397 personas y causaron un estimado de $5 mil millones de dólares en daños. Las lluvias sin precedentes de estas dos tormentas combinadas con los deshielos del Medio Oeste de Estados Unidos crearon la situación perfecta para una inundación.
10-5-2011- After weeks of storms and floods, Memphians awoke Tuesday morning to the highest river they'd seen in 74 years. The Mississippi had risen to 48 ft. (15 m); 120 million cu. ft. (3.4 million cu m) of water rushed by every minute — enough to fill a football field 44 ft. (13 m) deep every second. By May 10, the river had swelled to six times its normal girth, more than 3 miles (5 km) across at Memphis.
But much of the city remained largely untouched by the creeping water, and its residents had clearly grown weary of staring suspiciously at it. Along the banks of the flood-ravaged Mud Island Tuesday morning, the pleasure boats returned to the bloated Mississippi.
(See dramatic pictures of the Mississippi floods.)
This, of course, was the opposite of what the authorities were recommending. "We do not consider these waters recreational," lectured Bob Nations, the head of the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, at a press conference earlier that morning. "We do not consider these waters healthy. They are dangerous." Though mostly snow and ice melt and rain, the waters have flooded farm fields treated with dangerous pesticides and overrun sewers and industrial plants.
Still, they hadn't banned pleasure craft from the river, so I decided to take a ride. Memphis' waterfront looked "like a California beach walk times 10," said Mark Bills, owner of Uptown Carriages in Memphis. Bills and two other horse-drawn carriage drivers, Lissie Mullen and Shannon Bryan, were taking the day off to sightsee in the city they were all born and raised in: their first airboat ride on a river they'd lived next to for more than century combined. Thousands of tourists — mostly locals like these three — paraded up and down the raised trolley rails over the flooded Riverside Drive. Hawkers sold water, ice and beer. A couple of enterprising salesmen peddled T-shirts reading "I Survived the Flood of 2011" and "2011: The Flood of the Century." "I feel like a kid, this is so exciting," Mullen said, buying souvenirs ahead of the outing at the Memphis Riverboat tourist shop. A crowd formed as Captain William Lozier piloted the Demona, named for his wife, to the pier. "Hey, can you rent those things?" asked a woman with a baby. "Yes, for $30 the half an hour," Lozier said, before adding, "but I don't take babies, kids or pregnant ladies."
Demona had no seatbelts — "so we don't drown if we flip," quipped Bryan cheerfully. Airboats are tiny crafts that seat six and use a giant fan to propel the shallow boats across the surface of the water. Passengers must wear glasses — bugs smashing into your eyeball at high speeds can be painful — and ear plugs, the giant kind worn by workers on airport runways. "If you care about your hearing, you'll wear them," Lozier advised. The four of us buckled into life jackets and scrambled aboard, jockeying for the front seat. I lost, but was ultimately glad I did as Bryan and Mullen ended up soaked.
(See "New Blues for Memphis: As the Mississippi Crests, Tourists Stay Away.")
The rushing river did seem a little daunting, but the airboat seemed to flit above it — as it did with the occasional grassy knoll that Lozier playfully swerved up against. "What people don't understand is that it's so spread out that it's not much different from regular currents," Lozier says. Several school groups have canceled riverboat tours because of what parents perceive as dangerously high waters. We skimmed over the submerged grounds of an amusement park on Mud Island and raced straight across the heaviest currents toward Arkansas on the far bank, where the water sprawled like a lake for miles.
The day was already warm — 85°F (30°C) at 11:30 a.m. I shuddered to imagine Memphis' coming mosquito plague when all this water settled into small lakes, then ponds, then large puddles — slowly evaporating over the summer.
We paralleled Interstate 40 for more than a mile (2 km); the Mississippi usually spans just half a mile there (1 km). Drivers rubbernecked to take pictures of us, surprised to see a boat so close, as we dodged semisubmerged billboards, telephone poles and what was not long ago a weigh station for trucks. We took pictures of the drivers taking pictures of us. We passed what was left of a trailer park. The water had swept the RVs from their homes and wedged seven of them beneath an overpass. The road was slightly elevated — built to withstand exactly this event — but that also meant that we could weave under the pylons every few hundred yards, or several hundred meters.
(See " 'We've Never Seen Anything like It': On the Ground in a Surreal, Swamped Memphis.")
The water smelled dully like a sewer with a side of chemical plant, a bit like Arabi in New Orleans, where the floodwaters mixed with an oil slick after Hurricane Katrina. I was reminded more intensely of how much I'd rather not take a swim just as we hit the wake of a motorboat and flew up like kids on the back seat of a school bus on a bumpy road.
We turned south after a while and played hide-and-seek with a railroad bridge and Interstate 55 before looping northward back to Memphis. The city's famous Pyramid arena — a massive 20,000-person venue with shiny glass sides — reflected the sun. Tourists waved at us from Tom Lee Park and an annoyed television correspondent waved us quickly out of his shot. After all, how serious could a natural disaster be if he had airboats on the water behind him? Lines of white television trucks lined the waterfront, and more river gawkers waved from the elevated trolley platform above.
As we pulled in, a crowd again formed. Lozier told onlookers where to buy tickets. A salesman was advertising the 2:30 riverboat cruise. After weeks of tornadoes, torrential rains and then the rising Mississippi, business has been bad. But as the fear of flooding wanes, judging by the crowds that were lining up for boat tours, Memphians are again embracing their mighty river.
Floodwaters rise around a home in the West Junction neighborhood where David Rhodes, above, grew up.
Jonathan White and Leandra Felton wade through floodwaters with items from their home.
People gather to look at opened bays on the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Norco, La., on Monday, May 9, 2011. It marked the 10th time the structure has been opened since it was completed in 1931. The spillway diverts water from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.
A welcome sign in Memphis on May 8, 2011.
Homes on Mud Island are seen as floodwaters rise in Memphis on May 9, 2011.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2069269,00.html#ixzz1M4qiyYBG
Two residents ride a paddle boat down the middle of a flooded street near their home.
A barge floats past downtown Memphis as the Mississippi River swells.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opens up bays along the Mississippi River to the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Norco, La., on May 9, 2011 in order to divert Mississippi River water to Lake Pontchartrain.
Floodwaters from the Mississippi River inundate casinos in Tunica, Miss., on Monday, May 9, 2011.
Townhomes in Memphis are surrounded by floodwater from the Mississippi River on May 10, 2011. The Mississippi reached its crest in Memphis the previous night — about 4 in. (10 cm) less than anticipated and nearly 1 ft. shy of the record crest of 1937.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2069269,00.html#ixzz1M4p83UfP
Floodwaters engulf a Memphis residential area, as seen in this aerial photograph on May 10, 2011.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2069269,00.html#ixzz1M4pTU7Ai
In order to relieve pressure from floodwaters and protect Cairo, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew an 11,000-ft. (3.3 km) hole in the Birds Point Levee in nearby Missouri. After the breach, high waters nevertheless filled the town.
Melvina Jones carries a mirror through flood waters as the swelling Mississippi River begins to surround her sister's home on Hudson St. in Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 10, 2011.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 10, 2011
Water from the swollen Mississippi River surrounds the Historic Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company Depot in Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 10, 2011.
Vicksburg, Mississippi, May 11, 2011
A home is surrounded by floodwater in the King's Community neighborhood May 11, 2011 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Mississippi River at Vicksburg is expected to crest near record levels at 58.5 feet by tomorrow. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
Deer try to navigate the rising floodwaters near Cairo, Ill., on May 3, 2011.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2069269,00.html#ixzz1M4vjW5jT
The Mississippi River continues to rise as it nears record flood levels, forcing thousands of people from Arkansas to Tennessee to flee their homes. Weeks of heavy rain in the region has even forced snakes and other reptiles into residential neighborhoods as they also try to escape the rushing water.
"In one second that water...would fill up a football field 44 feet deep. In one second," said Col. Vernie Reichling, Army Corps of Engineers commander for the Memphis district, at a press conference today. The Mississippi has widened to six times its normal size in downtown New Orleans.
As of this morning, the Mississippi River has risen to 47.6 feet and was expected to crest at 48 feet later this evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Previously, the Army Corp of Engineers expected the river to rise to a record level of 48 feet early Tuesday morning -- the record crest in 1937 was 48.7 feet.
More than 1,300 homes have been ordered to evacuate and another 240 have been warned that they might need to leave. Nearly 400 people are staying in shelters.
In North Have, Tenn., the flood has forced four generations of Charles Hinkson's family to move into his home for shelter. It was supposed to be a safe place.
"We'll be on an island if it continues to rise. In fact, we're already on an island," said Hinkson to ABC News. The police have told them to go, but they won't budge, hoping the water stops rising before they are submerged.
The Mississippi River has the third-largest drainage basin in the world, absorbing 41 percent of the drainage from the 48 contiguous United States, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The massive river covers more than 1,245,000 square miles.
The damage has been extensive in places like Memphis, where entire neighborhoods have been swallowed by the water and vehicles completely submerged.
Memphis's Beale Street, known for being the birthplace of blues music, has been inundated with water. Flooding in the city has turned into a tourist attraction for gawkers and a nightmare for residents. However, music lovers can be reassured that the Elvis compound at Graceland is not currently under threat, according to officials.
"All this water, it scares me," said resident Regina Reene.
The levees are holding for now, but government officials are not taking any chances. Homes that are not in areas protected by the levees are in path of potential flooding, Reichling told the Associated Press.
Residents who haven't evacuated are taking precautions by using sand bags.
"It's my house and once everything's over and done with, I would prefer to have somewhere to stay," said resident Sherrica Nailor.
The Nailor's home hasn't been hit yet, but the flood waters were creeping steadily up the street just a block away.
Fearing a breach, some local businesses are tossing out sandbags and replacing them with Tiger Dams, 50 foot by 19 inch cylindrical tubes that can be stacked in a pyramid shape up to 32 feet high and interconnected to form a barrier of virtually infinite length. These dams were also used by BP after last year's Gulf oil spill disaster.
Farther downstream in Louisiana, authorities said a spillway northwest of New Orleans is expected to be opened today to ease pressure on levees, the AP reported.
ABC News Radio, Lauren Vance, Max Golembo and the Associated Press contributed this report.
Memphis Flooding: Mississippi River Nears Record Highs
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