Flood leaves Cutoff future in doubt
It’s a waiting game for some 350 people evacuated from the camps at Tunica Cut-off.
With the Mississippi River 10 feet out of its banks at 44.28 feet on the Memphis gauge and still headed toward a crest of 48 feet on May 11, county planners and emergency management officials fear that floodwaters will enter nearly all the now-abandoned homes on the unprotected side of the levee.
“A Mississippi Emergency Management Agency mitigation unit will send a team to assess damage on the homes after the water is gone,” Planning Commission Director/Floodplain Manager Pepper Bradford said at a briefing Wednesday. “One foot of water in a mobile home (and it) is considered destroyed.”
Bradford said 15 percent of the Cut-off residences had water inside by Tuesday, May 3; in another 25 percent, floodwater was within two feet of entering, and he expects that it has done so now.
Bradford reported that only 95 flood insurance policies are in place in the entire county, estimating that less than 10 percent of Cut-off homes have insurance coverage.
County officials are planning to meet this week with Cut-off renters and homeowners to give an update on the area’s future. All access to the camps was shut down on Friday last week, as the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee closed in Tunica, DeSoto and Coahoma counties.
“The closing of the levee caused chaos,” YMD Emergency Manager Jamie Roberson said, adding that Tunica Countians for the most part were cooperating with the ban.
Roberson said alligators had been spotted cruising along the banks of the levee. Despite this ominous development, a few people are still trying to fish from atop the levee or cross over into the Cut-off camps.
Two people were arrested for trespassing in the area over the weekend, according to Major Leron Weeks of the Tunica County Sheriff’s Department.
Seventeen wildlife officers and 10 members of the state’s Homeland Security Strikeforce 3 from South Mississippi are patrolling the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee around the clock.
“We’re in a flood flight, and people need to know that,” Roberson said.
“Our levees are in top condition, and we are confident regarding their stability,” reiterated Kelly Greenwood, YMD Levee Board Chief Engineer and CEO.
Livestock owners have been told to remove their animals by mid-week from the land that the Levee Board leases.
On Tuesday, 27 evacuees were shelteried by the Red Cross at the G.W. Henderson Recreation Center, 1165 Abbay Road, down from 36 the night before, with another 15-25 getting meals there three times daily.
State officials have requested a federal disaster declaration of Mississippi’s river counties and expected to receive confirmation of that declaration this week.
“The Mississippi River will reach historic levels over the next few weeks,” Gov. Barbour said. “Securing a disaster declaration now will allow the federal, state and local governments to coordinate efforts both during and after the flood. I urge any residents or property owners in the area to take the necessary precautions now and protect their property and their families.”
Emergency Director Randy Stewart said he is confident in the levee system but also urges residents to keep up to date with what is going on around them.
“Everybody needs to be prepared and plan for any hazard,” Stewart added.
In anticipation of being approved for assistance for flooding by both the Mississippi River and other flash flooding as a result of the storms, FEMA is inviting those affected in Tunica County to go ahead and make contact with FEMA as follows:
The application process does not guarantee FEMA assistance but is required for any consideration.
Town residents who had damage to their homes in last week’s storms and flash floods are asked to call town hall at 662-363-2432 or the EOC at 662-363-4012 and be prepared to give a brief description of the damage.
The YMD Levee Board wants the public to know that “the levee is strong, there are no problem areas and that we are monitoring the situation round the clock,” Roberson said Monday morning.
Inspectors began checking every mile of the levee for problems such as seep water or boils on Monday.
“We still have plenty of free board– that is, levee land that is from the top of the levee down to the water level,” he added.
Roberson can be contacted at 662-624-4397.
Other questions or concerns should be directed to the EOC at 662-363-4012. Emergencies should be reported to 911.
Economic impact will be huge
The closing of Tunica County’s casinos last week and early this week for an indefinite period of time will have far-reaching impact on the local and state economy, county officials say.
Closing the casinos for a month could lead to a combined $10 million loss in local and state gaming tax revenue, $3.54 on the local level alone. Approximately 9,300 jobs with a near $18 million payroll have been displaced due to record flooding along the Mississippi.
Residents: reschedule hearing
With hundreds of Tunica Cutoff residents seeking shelter somewhere else, Nel-Win Homeowners Association president Billy Westbrook asked the Board of Supervisors to consider delaying a redistricting hearing.
The hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 9, at the Tunica County courthouse. (A map showing the new districts is available at The Tunica Times.)
“Because the residents have evacuated, we ask the board to set another hearing date so we can participate,” Westbrook said.
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