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Memphis warns residents of flooding

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Police went door to door in Memphis Friday urging residents to leave nearly 1,000 homes that could be swamped by the swollen Mississippi River.

Emergency workers handed out bright yellow fliers in English and Spanish that read, "Evacuate!!! Your property is in danger right now."

All the way south into the Mississippi Delta, people faced the question of whether to stay or go as high water kept on rolling down the Mississippi and its tributaries, threatening to soak communities over the next week or two. The flooding has already broken high-water records that have stood since the 1930s.

The Coast Guard closed a five-mile stretch of the Mississippi on Friday to protect Caruthersville, Mo., and said ship traffic could be banned for up to eight days. The concern is that the wake from big boats could push water over a floodwall and into the town.

In Tennessee, where local officials do not have the authority to order people to evacuate, they hoped the fliers would persuade them to leave. Bob Nations, director of emergency management for Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said there was still plenty of time. The river is not expected to crest until Wednesday.

Shelters have been opened, and the fliers include a phone number to arrange transportation for people who need it.

Graceland, Elvis Presley's home and one of the city's best known landmarks, is about a 20-minute drive from the river and in no danger of flooding, spokesman Kevin Kern said.

Water pooled at the lowest end of Beale Street, the most famous thoroughfare in the history of the blues, but it was about a half-mile from the street's popular restaurants, shops and bars and did not threaten any homes or businesses.

People and businesses could be dealing with the aftermath of the flood for weeks because officials said Friday it may be the end of May before flooded areas dry out. Farther south, parts of the Mississippi Delta began to flood, sending white-tail deer and wild pigs swimming to dry land, submerging yacht clubs and closing floating casinos.

The sliver of land in northwest Mississippi was in the crosshairs of the slowly surging river.

In Memphis, residents of a well-to-do enclave on Mud Island, which sits in the river, were getting too much of their beloved surroundings. Rising waters practically lapped at the back porches of some of the island's expensive houses.

Emergency officials warned that residents may need to leave their homes as the river rises toward an expected crest Wednesday of 48 feet -- about 3 feet higher than Thursday.

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