In Mississippi Town, Residents Watch Rising Waters

May 15, 2011

Thousands of homes and farms in Mississippi remain underwater, and residents are bracing for the river's crest later in the week.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace checks the depth meter on his small boat motoring through a flooded neighborhood in Vicksburg. The reading: 71/2 feet.

Pace and his deputies patrol this and other inundated parts of town, making sure looters stay out. He points to the top of street signs that stick out of the water: Mary's Alley and Williams Street.

"We just drove across an intersection," he says. "Oh my God! And we didn't stop at the stop sign."

Dozens of homes are underwater. You can only see the roofs on some. Power lines, once high above the streets, are now just inches above the water. Trees are submerged.

Pace notes that the boat is on 12 feet of water.

"We are actually driving over a plum tree with plums in it," he says.

This neighborhood sits near the Yazoo River, which joins the Mississippi at Vicksburg. With the river so full, the Yazoo's waters have nowhere to go but backward, right over the banks and into low-lying neighborhoods. This one has been underwater for more than a week. Each day the river gets higher and takes more homes.

Bracing For The Waters

Jacqueline Boykin's house and a neighbor's look like they will be next. The water is just a few feet away.

"That my sister's house, but we are not going to leave each other," Boykin says. "We not going to do that."

Boykin has already moved all her furniture out except for her bed. She shuffles down the road to the water's edge. Her heels hang off the backs of her gold-sparkling house slippers. She says she just paces like this back and forth all day, watching the water, trying to decide whether to leave.

"I just feel so bad. I know if my house go, where is me and my daughter going?" she says. "But I know God and he got my back. I got a back up. God has my back."

Boykin has at least five more agonizing days ahead of her. The river is expected to crest in Vicksburg on Thursday. After that it could be several more weeks before the waters recede.

That doesn't leave much for people to do but wait and watch the river flow past.


In historic downtown Vicksburg, police officer Charles Huggins tries his best to keep onlookers from posing for photos near the water. He warns them of alligators.

"This is a natural disaster, but they think it's a tourist attraction," he says. "But I'm just trying to keep people from hurting themselves, that's all."

The favorite photo is the town's majestic brick railroad museum that is now surrounded with algae-covered water; or the water seeping under a temporary levee wall erected next to a line of famous murals.

But just a block away and up a steep hill, it's high and dry.

Sidewalk speakers pump out jazz and blues in front of brick storefronts. The gift shops, antique stores and galleries are open. One store even has a rack out in front with T-shirts that say, "I survived the 2011 flood."

The Highway 61 coffeehouse is packed. Business is good, says owner Daniel Boone, but he's worried the tourists will soon stop coming.

Everyone thinks the town is flooded, Boone says, but it's only the low-lying areas. The water is close, he says, but it's not coming up here.

"It's a block away, but luckily it's a vertical block and we are not wet," Boone says.

And it's a block open for business. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit