Memphis floodwaters expected to hit 48 feet

Floodwater covers Beale Street at the edge of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn.

The Mississippi River was set to crest yesterday in Memphis, Tenn., just below its 74-year-old record, as a bulge of water moved south toward the riverside refineries in Louisiana.

The Mississippi threatens 3,075 buildings, including 949 homes and 12 apartment complexes, in Tennessee’s Shelby County, which includes Memphis, the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency said. Exxon Mobil Corp. shut its fuel terminal in the city April 29, Kevin Allexon, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“A big monster is rising up on the downtown shores and wrapping its arms around the city,” said David Shular, a spokesman for Shelby County. “There are crowds of people along the riverbank just to look at it because they just haven’t seen it this high.”

The river was forecast to reach 48 feet in Memphis at 7 p.m., compared with the old mark of 48.7, according to a revised National Weather Service forecast.

“Essentially it is beginning to crest right now,” said Bill Borghoff, an NWS meteorologist in Memphis. “We expect it should remain near 48 feet through Wednesday night or so.”

Third-largest watershed

The Mississippi River drains 41 percent of the continental U.S. and is the third-largest watershed in the world. Flooding along the river and its tributaries has closed roads and set crest records in New Madrid and Caruthersville, Mo. Barge traffic stopped on the Ohio River, which drains into the Mississippi at Cairo, Ill., last week.


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