The Mississippi River, which runs through the center of the United States and south to New Orleans, is flooding at near record levels. Both large cities and small towns along its banks are struggling to control a torrent of water from spring rain and runoff. In the small town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, some residents are preparing to evacuate.
In the Kings community of North Vicksburg, Mississippi, friends and relatives are helping Joann Parks pack up her worldly possessions. The flood waters in the area have risen a half meter in the last 24 hours. And there is fear they could reach her house within the next week.
“This is one of the higher areas in the Kings community. And like myself and a lot of others, we have homeowners insurance, but we don't have flood insurance because we have never been required to have it because it is not a flood area," said flood victim Joann Parks.
Vicksburg is an old river town where the waters of the mighty Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers meet. Known for its American Civil War history, it is a tourist town.
But heavy spring runoff and higher than average rainfall, hundreds of kilometers up river, have sent a torrent of water south, creating record flooding in five states.
In Vicksburg, the waters are currently 16 meters above flood stage, and will crest at 17.5 meters some time next week. Seventy-year-old Winston Holman has lived here all his life. “I have never seen the river as high as it is right now. And I hope I never see it get this high again. Because, it is hurting a lot of folks around here and a lot of businesses," he said.
The flooding is primarily in an industrial area south of downtown and in residential areas like the Kings community. Officials estimate the waters will flood 1,000 homes in the area.
Sixty-year-old Pop McDonald's house already has a meter of water in it. This is the second time he has been flooded out, but he says he will return when the waters recede. “I'm looking at least a couple of months. You now see how much damage it did, and how much repairs I got to have on it," he said.
Today is Joann Park's 61st birthday. She has lived in this house since she was 14 years old. This is the first time she has had to leave. There are many memories she holds dear, and deciding what to leave behind is painful. “It is just a lot of things that have got to go. Some of the things have got to go, some of the thing I don't know where we are going to store it. It's just hard, I know there is a lot of things we are not going to be able to save," he said.
Her brother has been helping to load a large moving truck loaned to her by a friend. Leaving is hard. But staying has not been easy either. “We have nightmares going to bed at night not knowing whether the water done traveled and it is in the yard or something," she said.
Joann says she will be out of this house within a few days, and doesn't know if she will return. She told us the one good thing from this experience is it has brought her closer to family and friends. She and her daughter will live with her best friend for a while, and wait for the floodwaters to rise and fall.