McDonald's sign in floodwater
Floodwaters have crested in Memphis, meaning the worst is over for the Music City, but many more people are still in danger. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Mississippi river has been engorged for weeks, battering the south with some of the worst flooding on record in decades. Memphis, Tenn., experienced heavy flooding, but residents of the Music City can start breathing easier, as the river has crested. Flooding should begin to subside, but other areas farther down the river are still at great risk.

Fears allayed as Graceland goes untouched

More than 1,000 people have been rendered homeless, but some of the greatest landmarks in the state of Tennessee have gone untouched. The historic Beale Street district, a landmark of Music City, was not touched by floodwaters, according to the BBC. The Mississippi has not harmed Graceland, the estate that was the home of Elvis Presley in his later life until his death in 1977. One of the officials of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, the county Memphis is located in, was quoted as saying people would be willing to “charge hell with a water pistol” to keep Graceland safe. Some 1,300 homes have been evacuated, and there is concern, according to CBS, that pending late spring storms could bring further flash floods in the Memphis area. The water will take some time to recede.

Swollen Mississippi crests

The Mississippi river has swollen as a result of the spring thaw, after winter storms buried the East Coast of the United States in near-record amounts of snowfall. However, the floodwaters near Memphis recently crested at 48 feet, less than 10 inches shy of the record set in 1937. Though the worst of the danger is coming to an end in Memphis, there is considerable danger left for the rest of the cities and states along the path of the Mississippi river. Floodwaters are already coursing through the rest of the Mississippi river system and in the Mississippi river delta, and precautions are being undertaken in order to ensure that the area is safe. The Bonnet Carre Spillway was recently opened by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to relieve pressure from floodwaters on New Orleans’ levees, according to MSNBC. Floodwaters are already coursing through the delta, but measures are being taken to further prepare the area for the huge volume of water that is heading in that direction.

Worst flooding in decades

Though the current flood levels are bad, they are not as bad as the 1927 floods that killed hundreds of people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, according to the Christian Science Monitor. More than 2,000 miles of levees that were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in response to the 1927 floods. The caveat is that every time a spillway has to be opened to keep flooding from becoming too harmful, other areas are flooded as water is diverted from the bulging Mississippi. It is expected that 900,000 acres of Arkansas farmland will become flooded as the water moves toward the Gulf of Mexico and spillways are opened along the way.

Sources

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13337548

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42973616/ns/us_news-environment/

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/05/09/travel/main20061138.shtml

Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0509/Mississippi-River-nears-crest-in-Memphis-but-concern-shifts-south

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