The Mississippi reached its crest Tuesday just short of the 1937 record, and it's looking like Memphis is in for a costly cleanup.
- A flooded residential area in Memphis is seen in this aerial photograph made with a fisheye lens Tuesday, May 10. The Mississippi River crested in Memphis at nearly 48 feet on Tuesday, falling short of its all-time record but still soaking low-lying areas with enough water to require a massive cleanup. (Jeff Roberson) (Photo: Associated Press)
The Mississippi River crested in Memphis yesterday at a fraction of an inch below 48 feet, the highest it’s gotten since it reached 48.7 feet during the Great Flood of 1937. (For the 411 on that historic flood, this article has a man named Bubba who will lay it all out for you.) The levees and pumps seemed to do their duty well, with mostly low-lying areas of the city getting swamped with nasty, mighty Mississip’.
These natural-color images taken by the “Thematic Mapper” on NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite (still going 24 years after its expected mission life) indicate that Memphis is in for a costly cleanup. Whereas the river is relatively constrained in the left shot from April 21, 2010, the right photo from May 10 shows it hanging out in all its flabby sprawl (higher-rez here):
The overflow is occurring on both banks of the river, covering and closing down Mud Island as well as President’s Island in southwest Memphis. The tail of beloved Beale Street is submerged near the river, and water levels almost touch telephone wires in certain bathymetric areas of the city. (This photo gallery from WREG is pretty amazing.)
Do you think this flooding has not caused a deer to take shelter on a roof? Well, think again. According to the local Commercial Appeal, in addition to the human-misery dimension of the flooding and recent storms, for which Shelby and 14 other Tennessee counties are to receive federal-disaster aid, there’s also a huge animal-misery aspect. The Appeal noted that this conservation officer Tweed “has been forced to kill at least a dozen deer that he found tangled in barbed-wire fences or the tops of trees that are now surrounded by 40 feet of water,” the Appeal states. Other deer fleeing their habitats for the highways “got instantly splattered by cars."
The flood threat isn’t something that’s going to go away overnight. Government scientists consider the Mississippi to be in major flood stage until at least May 15. The chance that it could start rising again “has not been ruled out,” states NASA.
Here's a video showing the river at the moment of its crest in Memphis and Tunica, Miss.: