River rise threatens homes, casinos
Tunica Cut-off residents are scrambling to evacuate, and casinos will begin to close this week in the face of a projected rise on the Mississippi River to the third highest level ever on the Memphis gauge. Waters reached flood stage of 34 feet at Memphis on Wednesday.
The Mississippi and Ohio rivers are already well above flood stage at every National Weather Service station from Cincinnati, Ohio south to New Orleans, with a record high crest of 61 feet forecast at Cairo, IL.
Staggered casino closings began Thursday with Resorts, followed by Bally’s today; The Fitz, Hollywood, Sam’s Town and Harrah’s on Sunday; and Gold Strike, Horseshoe, and Roadhouse on Monday. Depending on the date of the crest, the river will fall over a five to seven day period, when the casinos will likely remain closed. They will likely re-open on a staggered basis, officials say.
“When (the casino area) is no longer safe...we’ve got to be closed before that,” Gaming Commissioner and Tunica Countian Nolen Canon said Tuesday.
“If it goes to 44 (feet), it will be a disaster,” county board attorney Andy Dulaney told supervisors Monday.
Meanwhile, some 200-300 lake homes in four camps on the unprotected side of the levee were already threatened by rising water, with water and sewer service interrupted and access roads to the camps expected to be impassable by the end of this week. Entergy will cut power to the Cut-off camps at noon today, according to County Emergency Coordinator Randy Stewart.
“The sooner people get out, the better,” Dulaney said, although a “suggested, voluntary, mandatory” evacuation order is all that is in place at this time.
“The elderly or sick, they need to leave now for their safety,” Stewart reiterated.
Stewart said the most updated forecasts project a river crest of 45 feet at Memphis on May 10, surpassed only by the historic floods of 1937 (48.70 feet) and 1927 (45.8 feet).
“We’re hoping and praying it doesn’t go higher,” he told supervisors.
The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board has ordered the levee’s closure in Coahoma, DeSoto and Tunica counties today (Friday, April 29).
Tunica County supervisors declared a state of emergency effective April 25, giving officials broad authority to take actions “deemed necessary,” and Town of Tunica officials followed suit on Wednesday.
In a statement released Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Vicksburg District assured that levee boards, local officials and they are “closely monitoring weather and river conditions.”
“The Vicksburg District Emergency Operations Center will coordinate with the state emergency management agencies in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi concerning any necessary activities,” Corps officials say.
A local shelter for evacuees opened at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night at the G.W. Henderson Recreation Center, 1165 Abbay Drive, in Tunica. Evacuees are urged to bring personal bedding, towels, toiletries and medications to the shelter.
Various facilities at Tunica’s Paul Battle Arena are also available to evacuees: more than 34 RV spaces with hook-ups; showers at the south end of the arena complex; and stalls for house pets and other domestic animals in the barn area. Pet owners are responsible for food, water and clean-up. Cut-off residents wishing to avail any of these services should come to the arena’s third floor to fill out paperwork. Call Steve Sosebee during regular business hours at 363-3299 or call the EOC after hours.
A Sheriff’s Department command center has been established in the polling place off Fox Island Rd. Evacuees can check at the command center for bulletins. Tunica County has provided parking for vehicles, boats and RV’s at the base of the levee near the command center and along a portion of Mhoon Landing Road, and security is being provided at that location.
Storage for evacuees’ personal belongings is being offered at the old Pillowtex building; contact Lyn Arnold at the Chamber of Commerce, 662-363-2865.
Those needing updated information are asked to call the county Emergency Operations Center at 662-363-4012 daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Emergencies should continue to be reported to 911.
The Tunica Times is posting daily updates on the public portion of its website, www.tunicatimes.com and on Facebook and Twitter.