Memphis Flooding Peaks; Danger Lurks Downstream

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Flood watches and warnings were in effect Tuesday morning as the rising Mississippi River rushes downstream toward Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile in Memphis, Tenn., the extensive levee system is holding, keeping flood waters away from most neighborhoods in the heart of the city.

But in other areas the damage is already done. The Mississippi is leaving its mark on Memphis, spilling two and a half miles out of its banks.

Flooding has hit low lying neighborhoods, forcing hundreds of people from their homes.

"It's also been called 'The Wicked River,'" said Deputy Sheriff Steve Shular with the Shelby County, Tenn., Sheriff's Office. "And it's been pretty wicked for the last several days."

Historic landmarks in Memphis appear safe with the Mississippi expected to begin slowly receding.

The river's crest in Memphis is predicted to be just shy of the 1937 record. All the flooding is the result of record snowfall this winter and above normal amounts of rain.

Rivers in 31 states -- more than half the country -- drain into the Mississippi or its tributaries.

"It felt biblical, like we had 40 days and 40 nights of rain," one resident said. "What's weird is having this delayed effect. Now that the weather is beautiful, one is waiting still though for the floods to actually occur, for the river to crest."

In North Haven, Tenn., four generations gathered in one house to try to escape the rising waters.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in some neighborhoods the water won't recede for at least two weeks.

"We'll be on an island if it continues to rise. We're basically on an island now," flood victim Charles Hinkson said.

Farmers downriver are building homemade levees to protect their crops.

Floodwaters are expected to crest in Vicksburg, Miss., on Wednesday and in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday.

Gas prices in the area have also been pushed higher because of concerns flooding could impact refineries.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers partially opened a spillway to ease pressure on levees in New Orleans that protect the Crescent City from severe flooding.

"If we didn't have the elements that were put in place in 1927 there today, this would be a massive disaster that would dwarf Hurricane Katrina. It would easily be the most enormous disaster in American history," explained John M. Barry, the author of the book titled Rising Tide.

For now, millions of people in eight states continue to watch a mighty river rise, try to build levees with sand bags and pray.

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Mark Martin

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.