Flooding That Swamped Midwest Flows To Already Soaked Mississippi

Jun 7, 2019
Originally published on June 8, 2019 5:28 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The flooding that has swamped the Midwest is making its way to the Gulf of Mexico. But in Mississippi, there is no place for the water to go because the state is already underwater. That has kept farmers out of their fields and families out of their homes. Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Alexandra Watts reports.

ALEXANDRA WATTS, BYLINE: Billy Whitten drives his pickup truck through his property in Issaquena County west of Jackson.

BILLY WHITTEN: I live at Valley Park, Miss. We farm about 1,450 acres, and it's 1,450 acres underwater right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD CHIRPING)

WATTS: A blue sky reflects off a large body of water that looks like a lake, but it's not a lake. More than a half million acres in the Mississippi Delta are underwater. Whitten passes by grain elevators and farm equipment that he would use to grow his corn and soybeans.

WHITTEN: We have not planted anything. Like I say, every acre we farm is underwater now. It's been under water for about six weeks.

WATTS: The Mississippi River has been above flood stage for more than 100 days. Greg Michel is with the state emergency management agency. He says the flooding is historic.

GREG MICHEL: This event has surpassed being a single weather event. This event is now of historical proportions, and now the duration of this event has now surpassed what we have seen since the flood of 1927.

WATTS: One of the hardest hit areas is the community of Eagle Lake. For months, water has isolated the few hundred or so people who live here, including Ann Dahl. As she stands in a soaking wet parking lot, a snake swims by. She says the flood is affecting everyday life.

ANN DAHL: People are missing children's recitals, football games, family events, church activities. People are just really missing their lives. And it is mental torture. You know, how much worse can it get? And it just keeps getting worse.

WATTS: About a decade ago, the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed a pump project that could have diverted high water because of the possible impact on wildlife. She says the region is paying for that now.

DAHL: This has just been, you know, a devastating flood that we've - you know, unprecedented. And it could have been averted. Had the pumps been built in 2008 when they were supposed to, we would see probably half of the amount of water that we have right now. And all of us at Eagle Lake would have been spared.

WATTS: Farmer Billy Whitten says it's not just people in the Midwest and Corn Belt who are suffering right now.

WHITTEN: I don't know. Just every day, you wake up in another world, just about. And this water keeps rising, and you get away from the South, and often very few people know about what's going on here. They have no idea.

WATTS: And as the floodwaters continue to displace families and halt planting season, residents here say they have no choice but to take it one day at a time. For NPR News, I'm Alexandra Watts in Greenville, Miss. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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