Mississippi River Crests in Memphis

Many residents have left the water-rising city and some continue to stay.

Posted: 05/10/2011 04:07 PM EDT
Filed Under Memphis

Mother Nature continued to show her power Tuesday as the Mississippi River crested in Memphis, Tennessee, washing away crops and damaging hundreds of homes.

The river crested at nearly 48 feet, just shy of the record of 48.7 feet set in 1937. The news was of little consolation for those who had already lost everything, including members of the Rodriguez family, who had been at a shelter for 12 days since their trailer park flooded.

"We've already lost everything," Rocio Rodriguez, 24, told the Associated Press.

The Mississippi 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. Homes had polluted floodwater near the top of the first floor in some areas, others were completely submerged.

Nearly 600 households had suffered water damage, some more extensive than others, Greg Flynn, a spokesman for the state emergency management agency, told the AP.

More flooding is expected along the Yazoo River, a tributary that joins the Mississippi. Farmers have built homemade levees — the only line of defense against floods — in an attempt to save their crops.

For years levees have served as the only line of defense against floods. Farmers built the levees in an attempt to protect their crops, but most of the corn, cotton and other crops are likely ruined.

Because of the levees, built since the Great Flood of 1927, it is unlikely any major metropolitan areas will be inundated from the high water. But engineers are cautious because of the risk of levee failures, as shown during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, writes the AP.

On Monday, in order to relieve stress on those very things that can save thousands of lives and homes, the Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway in Louisiana to ease pressure on levees in New Orleans. The Corps also wants to open a spillway north of Baton Rouge for the first time since 1973. If that happens, residents can expect water up to 25 feet deep over parts of seven parishes.

(Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)