Video: Communities on guard for Mississippi River floods

  1. Transcript of: Communities on guard for Mississippi River floods

    DAVID GREGORY, anchor (Washington, DC): Now to the Mississippi River flood. The slow-moving disaster is set to hit areas in the path of the spillway that was opened last week. But there is some good news. The National Weather Service today lowered its flood crest forecast for Butte LaRose , Louisiana , by two and a half feet. Here's NBC's Anne Thompson .

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: The floodwater from the Mississippi is a silent menacing stalker here in Louisiana , today blocking this road to the Sherburne Wildlife Management area in the Morganza Spillway .

    Unidentified Man: It should have been drowning.

    THOMPSON: The water's already claiming deer and creating new places for alligators to swim. On the other side of the Atchafalaya , some homes closest to the river are in it, while those on the other side of the levee in Krotz Springs are dry. With almost everyone evacuated, the Louisiana National Guard is ready for what comes next.

    Mr. KENNETH BAILLIE (Louisiana Army National Guard): Our hope is that this is an exercise in preparedness and an exercise in coming to the aid of a community that, frankly, our hope is that we never have to execute.

    THOMPSON: Vicksburg, Mississippi , still needs help. This week the river set a new record, reaching 57.1 feet, some 14 feet above flood stage . Here Martha Haggard can barely see the home she bought in 2004 , now submerged in fetid water.

    Ms. MARTHA HAGGARD: I don't think I'm going to go back. To tell you the truth, I don't really think I'm going back.

    THOMPSON: The flood's been a boon to Ronny Tyler 's T-shirt business.

    Mr. RONNY TYLER: This is where my daughter sleeps.

    THOMPSON: But he can't get to his home.

    Mr. TYLER: Excuse the mess, but can kind of get kind of hectic. It was mandatory evacuation. It was just hard to do it. I'm sorry.

    THOMPSON: The flooded Mississippi now rolls south at 13 miles an hour, more than double its normal speed. This historic amount of freshwater is beginning to impact some of Louisiana 's delicate oyster beds still trying to recover from four hurricanes in five years and last year's BP oil spill.

    Mr. RANDY PAUSINN (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries): If the oysters die, well, we lose that from market this year. However, that's reef material for new oysters to grow on for next year.

    THOMPSON: And there is more trouble on the Mississippi tonight. A segment of the river is closed near Baton Rouge after some barges broke loose and three sank. The Coast Guard is investigating. David :

    GREGORY: Anne Thompson , thanks very much.

Image: Satellite view of Morganza Spillway
NASA Earth Observatory EO-1 Team  /  AP
Part of the Morganza Spillway, seen at top center in this satellite image, has been opened to take pressure off the Mississippi River, seen winding at center right. Homes and farms southwest of the Morganza are being flooded as water makes its way into the Atchafalaya River, at far left, and the river's fertile basin. Levees are seen lining the basin, starting from each side of the spillway's edges. The basin continues south, through towns like Morgan City, before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
By Miguel Llanos Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 5/20/2011 1:33:50 PM ET 2011-05-20T17:33:50

They deserve this for living in a floodplain. That's the easy response to the evacuations of thousands as Louisiana's Cajun country becomes an outlet for Mississippi River waters that would otherwise swamp New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

But Karen O'Neill, a Rutgers University expert on U.S. flood policy, asks that you consider this: Those evacuees have no control over upstream development — and its impact on the river.

"Much of the U.S. landmass drains to this river system," she notes. (In fact, the Mississippi is the drainage basin for 41 percent of the country.) "Every time someone builds a shopping mall in Illinois or Missouri, water drains to the river that would have formerly filtered into the groundwater locally."

It doesn't help that flooding this year was made that much worse by lots of snow over the winter and then plenty of spring downpours.

"Yes, this river has always flooded," she adds, "but all of the rest of us have made it worse. This is a classic 'downstream' problem, where the people suffering from this added water did not create the problem."

Another issue, and one that Cajuns and others living in this region do bear some responsibility for, is flood insurance.

"As a nation, we have not demanded that insurance (i.e., the federal flood insurance program) reflect the true costs of insuring the most vulnerable lands," says O'Neill, author of "Rivers by Design: State Power and the Origins of U.S. Flood Control."

Many of the affected homeowners do not even have federal flood insurance.

In Krotz Springs, just 51 of 560 homes there have that coverage, according to a review by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In nearby Butte LaRose, 80 percent of the homes lack that insurance.

Some owners cite the expense, and others just don't expect to get flooded — either because they've raised their homes or have never seen flooding there.

Some geography, history
To understand the latter mindset, consider this: Krotz Springs, Butte LaRose and other threatened towns in Cajun country are technically not in the Mississippi River Basin but in the neighboring Atchafalaya River Basin.

To ease pressure on the Mississippi — and thus Baton Rouge and New Orleans — the Army Corps of Engineers has opened some of the gates at the Morganza Spillway, a dam built for just such an emergency by using the Atchafalaya Basin as a relief valve.

But while helping urban areas during bad flood years, that valve means swamping rural ones.

The Morganza — opened only once before, in 1973 — is one of four spillways built, along with 2,200 miles of levees, after the devastating flood of 1927, when hundreds of people died.

Levees were welcomed but the spillways, or floodways, were quickly opposed by people living in the basins chosen for the potential sacrifice.

One of those was the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

In 1937, as a major flood was building, tensions were so high there that some Missouri farmers armed themselves to try to keep the floodway near Cairo, Ill., from opening. The levee was breached only after Missouri's governor deployed the National Guard to keep the peace.

That same floodway was the first to be opened this year, protecting Cairo and other towns but swamping dozens of homes and 130,000 acres of farmland. As it has in the past, Missouri went to court but again lost the legal battle since the U.S. had paid out one-time indemnities to landowners decades earlier.

Still, even if the law makes clear the spillways are legal, it's never going to be an easy decision to open them.

After the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway was opened for the first time back in 1937, the then head of the Army Corps of Engineers voiced regret.

"I am now of the opinion," Maj. Gen. Edward Markham stated, "that no plan is satisfactory which is based upon deliberately turning floodwaters upon the homes and property of people, even though the right to do so may have been paid for in advance."

Story: As Mississippi River rises, a hero emerges

The future?
Looking forward, a key question is whether this year's flooding is a sign of things to come. One scary scenario that the system's never dealt with: repeated high-water flooding over a decade or so.

"We would see more (levee) failures, and more failures means more time and more resources to fix," says Adda Athanasopoulos-Zekkos, a civil engineering associate professor at the University of Michigan. "If there are too many failures and we don’t have enough time or money to fix them, then the next flood will find the system at a more vulnerable state and further expose it."

O'Neill says the uncertainty and growing pressures on the system require a new consensus on flooding.

"The main achievment of the federal program is that few people now die from river flooding. But we have too much land to be able to protect it in the costly ways that the Dutch have" with dikes, she says, so instead policymakers should "make clear that some lands will be sacrificed in floodways and we pay people who farm in those areas when we decide to flood them.

"I liked the program under the Clinton administration that paid people to move from towns that were flooded repeatedly," O'Neill adds, "but my understanding is that this is difficult to implement, even though it may be very cost effective in some places."

As for urban areas, some of those prone to flooding should "become parks or golf courses that we understand will be flooded sometimes."

But she's not optimistic that lessons from past flooding are being applied.

"The main problem for planning is that the federal, state or county governments can come up with plans of all sorts, but in the end it is municipal governments that approve development on private land," she notes. "Their incentives to build are very great, as development raises the value of property and therefore generates more property tax."

Athanasopoulos-Zekkos adds that it's critical to find a balance between development and the protection system.

"The more people and property there is to protect the more the system needs to be expanded," she says. "However, we should apply caution and perhaps not overextend the available resources, because it is better to have a 'smaller' system that works well than a 'bigger one' that doesn't."

"We should assign more floodplains, i.e. areas that we can flood by opening a gate without severe consequences such as displacing people or destroying infrastructure," she adds. "This may require however that areas that are currently populated may need to be permanently vacated, and this is a very sensitive issue."

What about letting the river go back to its natural state?

That "would mean uprooting millions and costing billions," says Athanasopoulos-Zekkos. "We may want to examine whether there are certain regions that we want to do this after performing cost-benefit analyses, but not for the entire system."

The climate factor
Both O'Neill and Athanasopoulos-Zekkos emphasize another factor in the mix: climate change.

"Our climate change models suggest that the variations and extremes of regional climate are likely to change," says O'Neill. "This means we cannot generate reliable estimates of probability. The '100 year flood' is an estimate of probability, and any prediction based on past experience is likely to be wrong."

"I think we should focus on understanding the effect of climate change on the river flow to be able to better predict future flood events," adds the University of Michigan engineer. "This will be the guide for designing new system components (levees, floodgates, etc.) and also for maintaining the existing ones."

Convincing policymakers, engineers and locals to do so could be a challenge, but Athanasopoulos-Zekkos believes it is "crucial to better communicate this process" as well as the risk and "the possible consequences to people who live in affected areas."

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Interactive: Flooding 2011

Photos: Record flooding

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  1. City surveyor Tony Moon works on a makeshift levee on the edge of the flooding Mississippi River with the temporarily shuttered Isle of Capri riverboat casino behind him, Friday, May 20 in Natchez, Miss. The river was forecast to crest at 62.1 feet, the highest level in Natchez recorded history. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Haley English, 7, cries into the arms of her mother, Naomi English, as she looks toward her submerged house in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 20. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A precautionary sign warning of flooding is almost covered by Mississippi River floodwaters along the road to LeTourneau Technologies, in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 20. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Workers build a 16-foot makeshift levee to protect the 100-year-old JM Jones Lumber Company on the edge of the flooding Mississippi River on May 20 in Natchez, Miss. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A sand berm didn't help this home in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 19. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A corrections officer motors through floodwaters to pick up prisoners helping sandbag against the flooding in Vidalia, La., on May 19. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Floodwaters from the Yazoo River creep across crops near Yazoo City, Miss., on May 19. The Yazoo backed up because of Mississippi River flooding. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Guy and Diane Creekmore check out their flooded home on May 18 in Vicksburg, Miss. The Creekmores take daily trips out to see the damage to their home, which is currently filled with about 4 feet of floodwater. They also feed the possums and a raccoon that have been stranded on the roof of their home. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A member of the Army Corps of Engineers looks over sandbags along the rising Mississippi River in Natchez, Miss., on Wednesday, May 18. Cargo was slowly moving along the bloated Mississippi River after a costly daylong standstill. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Floodwaters from the Mississippi River closed Highway 61 north of Natchez, Miss., on May 17. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Louisiana Army National Guard Sgt. Michael Leehy inspects new makeshift levee modifications on May 17 in Morgan City. The Morganza Spillway floodgates were opened for the first time in nearly forty years and have succussfully lowered the crest of the flooding Mississippi River, but towns like Morgan City expect to get hit by some of the diverted water. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tanya Acosta moves sandbags around her home on May 17 in Stephensville, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Farmers work as floodwaters from the Mississippi River creep across their fields in Natchez, Miss., on May 17. Heavy flooding from Mississippi tributaries has displaced more than 4,000 in the state, about half of them upstream from Natchez in the Vicksburg area. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Louisiana National Guard troops set up baskets to hold in sand above a levee in Krotz Springs on May 17. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. April Bordelon helps her brother Justin Reech move a load of belongings from his home in Big Bend, La., into a community known as Canadaville, in Simmesport, La., on May 16. The community was formerly used by Hurricane Katrina evacuees. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A street sign stands in the rising water of the Atchafalaya River in Simmesport, La., on May 16. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Brenda Hynum hugs her daughter Debra Emery as they watch floodwaters rise around Emery's mobile home in Vicksburg, Miss., on May 16. A sand berm around the trailer failed in the night and floodwaters from the rising Mississippi river rushed in. "We tried so hard to stop it. It goes from anger to utter disbelief that this could happen. I just want to go home," Emery said. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman in Stephensville, La., ties sandbags on May 15 as people throughout the region race to protect their homes from rising floodwaters due to the opening of the Morganza Spillway. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Giant whirlpools the size of cars develop along the Atchafalaya River on May 15 due to the opening of the Morganza Spillway. Deputies warned people to get out as Mississippi River water gushing from floodgates for the first time in four decades crept ever closer to communities in Louisiana Cajun country. (P.C. Piazza / The Lafayette Daily Advertiser via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Brittany Pearce, left, wipes her eyes while taking a break with Leanna Gresco after a long day of throwing sandbags in front of Pearce's grandparents' house in Stephensville, La. on, May 15. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. National Guardsman Spec. Lionel Lefleur stands guard on top of a levee checking vehicles trying to enter town, May 15, in Butte LaRose, La. The National Guard was trying to allow only residents trying to evacuate their homes into the town. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Brittany Ryder, 11, looks on as family members clear out their house during a mandatory evacuation, May 15, in Melville, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Houseboats are secured to a tree on the Atchafalaya River, May 15, in Henderson, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Mary Williams, right, looks on as family members pack the contents of her home, where she has lived since 1948, during a mandatory evacuation order, May 15, in Krotz Springs, La. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Arionne Ruffin, 7, pushes her cousin Josh Ruffin, 3, in a toy car while Alexis Rhodes, 8, plays in front of her family's home, May 15, in Bayou Black, La. The Rhodes, who have sandbagged around their home, purchased the house in February and are anxious about the impending flooding. (Julia Rendleman / The Houma Courier via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Water diverted from the Mississippi River spills through a bay in the Morganza Spillway in Morganza, La., May 14. Water from the inflated Mississippi River gushed through a floodgate Saturday for the first time in nearly four decades and headed toward thousands of homes and farmland in the Cajun countryside, threatening to slowly submerge the land under water up to 25 feet deep. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Inmates move sandbags for the construction of temporary levees in Butte LaRose, La., May 14. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Clothes are seen bagged in anticipation of floods in Butte LaRose, La., May 14. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Flood waters from the Mississippi River pour over a levee on the Yazoo River, a tributary to the Mississippi River, north of Vicksburg, Miss., May 13. Thousands of residents who live along or near the river from Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana have been forced to evacuate, and thousands of acres of prime farmland have been covered by the record-setting rising waters. (Chris Todd / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Flood waters of the Mississippi River threaten a large oil refinery complex in Baton Rouge, La., May 13. (Chris Todd / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. City workers transport sandbags past the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Station on May 12, in Vicksburg, Miss. The historic station is near the Mississippi River but the rest of downtown is on a bluff above. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Residents of Vicksburg, Miss., take advantage of the raised railroad tracks north of the city to fish in the Mississippi River flood waters late Thursday, May 12. The fishermen along the tracks were treated to the sight of a 10-foot long alligator swimming in the waters. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Mobile homes sit in water as high as their rooftops near Watkins, Tenn., May 10. (Mike Brown / The Commercial Appeal via Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Workers look for minor imperfections to correct before pinning down high density polyethylene covering on the backside of the Yazoo Backwater Levee in Vicksburg on May 10. The cover will act as a barrier if overtopping occurs and will inhibit backside erosion of the levee. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Friends and family help build a sandbag wall around a home in Stephensville, La., on May 11. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Frank Rankin stands in front of his flooded home in Vicksburg, Miss. on May 11. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. The Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., as seen on April 21, 2010 in the satellite image on the left, and during it's crest on May 10, 2011, at right. The river reached 47.8 feet, just under the record of 48.7 feet set in 1937. Mud Island river park can be seen in the upper right corner. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Melvina Jones carries a mirror through floodwaters as the swelling Mississippi River begins to surround her sister's home in Vicksburg, Miss. on Tuesday, May 10. (Sean Gardner / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. This industrial facility was flooded by the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., on May 10. The river earlier that day crested in Memphis just short of its 1937 record. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Chaperone Dave Weber and West Delaware High School Seniors Scott Egemo and Drew Funke lift flood debris below the damaged Lake Delhi dam near Delhi, Iowa, on May 4. (Becky Malewitz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Byron Sitz looks at Mississippi River floodwater covering the intersection of Riverside Drive and Beale Street in Memphis on May 10. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Water swamps a casino flooded by the Mississippi River in Tunica, Miss., on May 10. (Dan Anderson / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Jermaine Jarrett surveys a flooded street in his neighborhood in Memphis, Tenn., on May 9. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Floodwaters rise at the end of Beale Street in Memphis, May 9. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Floodwater is seen inside Peaches Bar on May 9 in Memphis. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. A towboat pushes barges down the flood-swollen Mississippi River south of Memphis, May 9. (Danny Johnston / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Water covers a gravestone, May 9, in Luxora Ark. The town sits along the Mississippi River where the water level is currently higher than the level of the town causing the ground to be saturated and leaving nowhere for the water in the town to drain. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. (Left) Workers use a crane to remove some of the Bonnet Carre Spillway's barriers in Norco, La. on May 9 in anticipation of rising floodwater. The spillway, which the Corps built about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans in response to the great flood of 1927, was last opened during the spring 2008. Monday marked the 10th time it has been opened since the structure was completed in 1931. The spillway diverts water from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.

    (Right) The Bonnet Spillway as seen from the air. (Gerald Herbert and Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. A cell block is seen alongside an inner levee along the Mississippi River at Angola State Prison in West Feliciana Parish, La. on May 9. A convoy of buses and vans transferred inmates with medical problems from Angola, which is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. A man takes a picture of a flooded mobile home park as floodwaters slowly rise in Memphis, Tenn., May 8. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Linda Casals leans over the Interstate 55 bridge crossing the Mississippi River to get a better look at flooding Sunday, May 8, in Memphis, Tenn. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Kimberly Nailor pauses to wipe her forehead while using sandbags to protect a home as floodwaters slowly rise in Memphis, Tenn., May 8. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Residents paddle a boat past houses being swallowed up by floodwater on Saturday, May 7, in Memphis, Tenn. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Volunteers fill sandbags to help in the fight against rising floodwater on May 7 in Memphis. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Jonathan White and Leandra Felton wade through slowly rising floodwaters with items from their home May 7 in Memphis, Tenn. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Reggie Smith wears a sandbag on his head in an effort to keep dry in a steady rain as he works to fill sandbags outside the RiverTown condominiums on May 7 on Mud Island in Memphis, Tenn. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. Jerry Brooks wades through his yard on May 6 in Bogota, Tenn. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. John Wade and Jose Peralta use a boat to haul sandbags to build a levee around Wade's home on May 5 in Metropolis, Ill. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Farmland is flooded by the White River near Des Arc, Ark., on May 5. (Danny Johnston / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. James Dunn gives his grandson Caleb Walker a paddle boat ride down the middle of a flooded street near his home on May 5 in Metropolis. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. Mississippi wildlife agent Hugh Johnson walks past a dead whitetail buck in Greenville, Miss., on May 5. Johnson said herds of deer, coyotes, some wild hogs and other wildlife are swimming to Greenville because of flooding on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. This deer broke its neck when it tried to run through a chain fence. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. James Strayhorn carries groceries through a flooded neighborhood back to his home in Tiptonville, Tenn. on May 4. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated and have caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Robert Hart, left, helps Oma Gardner remove furniture from her flooded home on May 4 in Tiptonville, Tenn. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Sally Nance walks through floodwater as she helps her neighbors remove clothes from their home on May 4 in Tiptonville, Tenn. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Rita Gieselman leads the way as Phil Vanover follows after checking on his home in the 100 block of Chestnut Street in Rumsey, Ky. on May 4. (John Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. Debbie Ricketts, left, and her Point Township, Ind., neighbors, Bill, center, and Hank Cox basked in the sun on their old grain bin cement foundation that they dubbed "Gilligan's Island," on the afternoon of May 4. (Denny Simmons / The Evansville Courier & Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Volunteers fill sandbags at the Pyramid Arena to prepare for rising floodwaters from the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. on May 4. The National Weather Service is predicting a 48-foot crest of the Mississippi River on May 11. (Lance Murphey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. Homes on Mud Island that are usually high above the water level are met by the rising waters of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. on May 4. (Lance Murphey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. David Lucas, left, and Lauren Lucas, right, comfort Carla Jenkins, owner of Vidalia Dock and Storage Co., after deciding to evacuate her business in Vidalia, La. on May 3 due to the threat of the predicted Mississippi River flood. (Eric J. Shelton / The Natchez Democrat via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. Floodwater engulfs a home near Wyatt, Mo., on May 3, after the Army Corps of Engineers blew a massive hole in a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to divert water from the town of Cairo, Illinois. The diversion flooded about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland and 100 homes. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Roy Presson embraces his daughters Catherine and Amanda as they stand on the edge of State Highway HH looking out at their family farm in Wyatt, Mo., on Tuesday. The Presson home and 2,400 acres of land that they farmed was flooded by an engineered levee break. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. Floodwater surrounds homes in Morehouse, Mo., on Tuesday. Heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and has caused widespread flooding in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Tractors pump floodwaters over a levee in Tiptonville, Tenn., on Tuesday in a bid to divert some water. (Erik Schelzig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Daniel Davis stands in his kitchen in Livermore, Ky., on Tuesday after the Green River sent floodwater rushing in. (John Dunham / Messenger-Inquirer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. Floodwater from the Mississippi River is seen north of New Madrid, Mo., on Tuesday. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. An explosion lights up the night sky as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blows an 11,000-foot hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Mo. on Monday. The breach lowered the flood levels at Cairo, Illinois, and other communities. (David Carson / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. James Bindon waits for more loads of sand to be delivered to the riverfront in Vidalia, La., on May 9. Crews planned to use the sand to fill temporary levees in preparation for the predicted Mississippi River flood. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. Volunteers hastily build a wall of sandbags along Illinois 3 on May 8 in the community of Olive Branch. (Alan Rogers / The Southern Illinoisan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. Anna Mayhood leaped to safety from her vehicle after the Broad Street Bridge collapsed beneath it on April 27 in Moriah, N.Y. Authorities said flooding closed nearly 60 roads across the Adirondacks, most of them in Essex County, scene of some of the worst damage. (Lohr Mckinstry / The Press Republican via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. Kenny Back pulls a boat with his sister Jessica Capp and wife Theresa Back to collect belongings from their parents' flooded home on April 27 in Old Shawneetown, Illinois. (Stephen Rickerl / The Southern via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. Volunteers place sandbags atop a temporary levee to fight back floodwaters as lightning from a thunderstorm is seen in the background on April 26, in Dutchtown, Mo. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. Four houses are surrounded by floodwaters from the Current River just outside Doniphan, Mo., on April 26. The area received several inches of rain in previous days. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  83. A rail service vehicle and a pickup sit stranded in floodwaters from the Black River south of Poplar Bluff, Mo., on April 25. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  84. Residents of Oak Glen Residential Community are assisted by rescue personnel as rising waters from a nearby creek forced them to evacuate their homes in Johnson, Ark., on April 25. (Beth Hall / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  85. Volunteers stack sandbags in Metropolis, Ill., on April 25 to curb Ohio River flooding. (Alan Rogers / The Southern Illinoisan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  86. A truck stalls in high waters in Paris, Texas, on April 25. (Sam Craft / The Paris News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  87. Leon Gentry looks out over floodwaters that surround his garage after he spent the morning working to secure what he could from the rising water in Henderson, Ky., on April 25. (Mike Lawrence / The Gleaner via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  88. Kim Mada loads equipment into a truck to avoid rising water at Falcon Floats in Tahlequah, Okla., on April 25. (Matt Barnard / Tulsa World via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  89. Butler County, Mo., Sheriff Mark Dobbs stands on a levee along the Black River, right, on April 25, where floodwaters were running over into adjacent farmland southeast of Poplar Bluff. The levee broke in this location during a 2008 flood. (Paul Davis / Daily American Republic via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  90. Kasey Medley, right, stands on the front porch of her flooded home with her friend Erica Cass in Poplar Bluff, Mo., on April 26. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Rising Rivers And Tributaries Continue To Flood Southern Communities
    Mario Tama / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (90) Flooding across parts of US - Record flooding
  2. Image:
    Billy Weeks / AP
    Slideshow (35) Flooding across parts of US - Deadly tornadoes

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