Mississippi River floodwaters in South falling, but misery remains

Date: May 25, 2011

Mississippi River floodwaters in South falling, but misery remains

Floodwaters from the Mississippi River are slowly falling, but for people from Tennessee to Louisiana, the misery it left behind is only beginning as they face gutting their ruined houses soaked in polluted water.

The bloated river has crested through the South and farmers with any hope of salvaging some of the growing season will have to scrub their fields of sandy sludge. And shipping is likely to be restricted for weeks because of pressure on levees. Also, a close watch will be kept well into the summer on strained levees, bridges and other structures.

Tuesday was the second day Memphis resident Wesley Roberts has been allowed back to his rented mobile home to retrieve possessions since it flooded to its 10-foot ceiling. It now sits on dry land with a red sticker on the glass sliding door indicating it's no longer inhabitable.

"I've never lost everything before," said the 59-year-old retiree. "It's new to me."

Roberts came back from a trip to Texas on May 1 to find the home near a tributary on the north side of town already underwater. His is among 2,500 houses and businesses in Shelby County that sustained at least some damage.

"There wasn't nothing I could do," he said. "I didn't have no boat. I just had to sit up there on that hill and watch my house get more and more underwater."

Some of the worst flooding has been along tributaries, and not all of the smaller rivers in Louisiana have hit their peak. The Atchafalaya River took on water diverted from the swollen Mississippi to spare more populous cities downstream, and it's expected to rise several more feet this week in Cajun communities like Butte Larose. Residents there were ordered to leave by Tuesday.

"It's falling now, slowly but surely. But it ain't falling that fast for me to get home," said William Jefferson, who has had at least 6 feet of water in his Vicksburg, Miss., house for two weeks. "I don't know what to expect. I won't know what to expect until I open the doors. Nobody knows until they open the door, then all hell breaks loose."

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