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Vicksburg District Predicts Yazoo Backwater Area to Reach 98 to 98.5 Feet: Eagle Lake Potentially to Equalize with the Backwater Area

Published May 18, 2019


 On May 17, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District notified Warren County Emergency Management, other local, state and federal partners and the public that the Yazoo Backwater area is predicted to crest at 98 to 98.5 feet within the week. 

Vicksburg District engineers increased the forecasted crest in the Yazoo Backwater area from its original forecast of 97.5 to 98 feet due to prolonged high water on the Mississippi River, resulting in an extended closure of the Steele Bayou Control Structure, and in consideration of field data collected. The Vicksburg gage on the Mississippi River has been above flood stage for more than 90 consecutive days, which is the longest duration that the gage has been above flood stage since 1927.

As of May 18 at 6 a.m. Central, the Vicksburg gage on the Mississippi River was at 49.6 feet. The National Weather Service forecasts indicate that the Mississippi River will crest near 49.8 feet on the Vicksburg gage by May 20. The elevation of the Yazoo Backwater area, on the landside of the Steele Bayou Control Structure, was at 97.8 feet, while the elevation on the river side of the structure is 97.8 feet. The elevation in Eagle Lake, Mississippi, adjacent to the Muddy Bayou Control Structure is 93.4 feet and rising.

If the Yazoo Backwater area reaches 98 to 98.5 feet, the Vicksburg District anticipates that Eagle Lake may essentially have enough water flowing into it to equalize with the backwater area, resulting in a potential elevation of 98 to 98.5 in Eagle Lake within the next seven to 10 days. This increased forecast will cause additional roads overtopping near the lake and water moving into residences below an elevation of 98 to 98.5 feet near the lake.

Life safety is the Vicksburg District’s number one priority and, as such, the district is advising the local community to remain vigilant and aware of the rising water levels.

As more information is available, the Vicksburg District will provide updates regarding current and forecasted conditions. The Vicksburg District will continue to monitor stages on the Mississippi River to determine when conditions are such for the opening of Steele Bayou.

The Steele Bayou Control Structure, which was built in 1969, combined with the Mississippi River and Yazoo Backwater levees, prevents the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers from backing up and further flooding the Delta. The Steele Bayou Control Structure's gates are opened when elevations on the Yazoo River fall below the elevation of water in the interior Yazoo Backwater area. Under normal operations, the Muddy Bayou Control Structure’s gates are opened (allowing water to drain from Eagle Lake) when the Yazoo Backwater area’s elevations fall below the elevation of water in Eagle Lake.

The Steele Bayou Control Structure was closed Feb. 15, reopened April 1 to allow gradual drainage of the Yazoo Backwater area and then closed again May 11. Due to well above average rainfall in the region since February 2019 combined with a prolonged high-water event on the Mississippi River, limited flows have drained from the Yazoo Backwater area while structures were opened. In March 2019, the interior Yazoo Backwater area reached its highest elevation since 1979. With the Yazoo Backwater area rising daily, this record stage will continue to be surpassed until the crest

District personnel and their local partners will continue to monitor the conditions of flood control works, including levees, flood walls and pumping stations across the entirety of the district’s jurisdiction.

Citizens are encouraged to contact local authorities and management officials for updates about conditions in their area and should avoid activities on or near flood control works.

The Vicksburg District encompasses a 68,000-square-mile area across portions of Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana that holds seven major river basins and incorporates approximately 460 miles of mainline Mississippi River levees. The district is engaged in hundreds of projects and employs approximately 1,000 personnel. For more information, visit www.mvk.usace.army.mil.

Reagan Lauritzen

Release no. 19-013