Nightly News | May 10, 2011
>>> good evening. one local official in tennessee called it a whole mess of water. that's exactly what it is. this is historic flooding, surging down the mississippi now. and it bears repeating. the water is flowing at the rate of 2 million cubic feet per second. the raging river flowing through eight states, three of them hardest hit. that includes tributaries and creeks that run off the mississippi . they're trying to manage and contain the water, in some cases using what was built after the last big one, the 1927 flood, when hundreds of people died in the south. and they're working hundreds of miles in advance, where the river is cresting because there's so much water behind it moving down river. we have two reports tonight. we begin our coverage again tonight in memphis , and nbc's janet shamlian . janet, good evening.
>> reporter: brian, good evening to you. the mississippi crested here just below 48 feet. officially the second worst flood in the city's history. it's now filled with all kinds of garbage and mud. and officials say it could be the end of the month before it completely recedes. the bloated mississippi crested in memphis just short of a record, but not without punishing low-lying areas, submerging homes between coffee-colored floodwater littered with debris.
>> sometime next week we should start to see significant falling in the range of maybe a foot a day or more.
>> reporter: but until then a watery week ahead for places like this school, which was high and dry a few days ago. a 3-foot-high, 90-foot-long retaining wall of sandbags was simply outmatched by the mighty mississippi . as the teachers started repairs on the ground floor, upstairs classes went on as planned.
>> i felt like we were spared. i feel like we were prepared, we made the right moves. and just a lot of prayers were answered, too.
>> reporter: in some respects it's a tale of two cities in memphis . iconic landmarks like graceland, the lorraine motel , and the blues clubs on beale street are untouched. yet several hundred homes are likely a total loss beneath this muddy soup, leaving dozens of families homeless. maria belano, a few weeks from giving birth to her fourth child. she and her children are staying in a shelter. it's not where she wants to bring a newborn. she told me, "i don't know what i'm going to do." as the river moves south, mississippi and louisiana are in its crosshairs.
>> we're at the head of the delta. it's those folks down below, you know, will the levee hold?
>> reporter: a flood-weary memphis is relieved the worst for them at least is over. janet shamlian , nbc news, memphis .