Disaster Slowly Flowing Down the Mississippi River

Disaster areas declared as Big Muddy reaches record levels
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2011 1:18 AM CDT
Updated May 5, 2011 6:20 AM CDT
Volunteers fill sandbags yesterday to prepare for floodwaters at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, which is separated by a floodwall from the Mississippi River.   (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)
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(Newser) – A slow-moving disaster is making its way down the Mississippi River. Authorities fear that floodwaters will exceed records set during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, one of the greatest natural disasters in American history. Tributaries that flow into the Mississippi are already backing up, and disaster areas have been declared in parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, AP reports. "I've never seen it this bad," said a 78-year-old resident who has lived in his Kentucky house for 77 years. Floodwaters have now turned his home into an island—dry but surrounded by water.

The systems of levees and locks put in place after the great floods of 1927 and 1937 are expected to face their toughest test since they were built. "We have a high confidence in our levees, but in the sense of transparency, we have to say that the levees have not been tested," said a Memphis emergency management director. Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a levee in Missouri, swamping 130,000 acres of prime farmland to save the town of Cairo, Illinois. (Read more Mississippi River stories.)

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