Following a devastating series of weather events, the Mississippi River is overflowing to record flood levels, causing billions of dollars in damage in its path across three states.
According to The Huffington Post, following heavy rainfall and rapidly melting snow at the river’s northern headwaters in April, the water level in Natchez, Miss. stood at a staggering 58.3 feet by the second week of May. The previous record in the area was more than 53 feet, set in 1927, and experts said more rainfall could ultimately worsen the current disaster.
Damage to crops in Mississippi, parts of Arkansas and Tennessee, could total $4 billion, state officials estimate. Residents and businesses are also among those being severely affected, as many locals have packed up and fled to higher ground, and hundreds of people have been displaced. A majority of the victims affected are poor, as nine of the 11 Mississippi counties that touch the Mississippi River have poverty rates at least double the national average.
“I have relatives, but all my relatives live in the delta, and the water’s going to get them, too,” Geraldine Jackson, a resident of Hollandale, Miss. told the Associated Press.
Health experts fear diseases could also be carried with the waters including tetanus and E. coli. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has urged local officials to attempt to reach people in the path of coming flood waters, especially focusing on residents without electricity or telephone service.
President Obama issued a disaster declaration for 14 counties in Mississippi, a move that will ensure that housing repairs will be covered and low-interest loans will cover uninsured damages.
As the flood waters move south, residents in Baton Rouge and New Orleans are waiting nervously to see if the Army Corps of Engineers will decide to open Louisiana’s Morganza Spillway to relieve severe flooding in the area, according to USA Today. Doing so will send water into rural parts of Louisiana and soak thousands of acres of cropland.
Damages from the Great Flood of 1927 totaled to $230 million, equivalent to about $2.8 billion today, flooded 27,000 square miles and killed more than 1,000 people in seven states. Still, experts say that the 1927 catastrophe has nothing on the current disaster.
“There’s never been a flood of this magnitude on the Mississippi,” Bob Anderson, an Army Corps spokesman told USA Today. “All the water in the United States seems to be coming our way.”