Fight rages against backwater flood

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

Many are tired, frustrated and overwhelmed. But the communities being swallowed up by the backwater flood are not giving up.

Volunteers and residents of the areas affected by the unprecedented flooding battle the heat and encroaching waters to save what they can from Mother Nature.

“This is as bad as it’s been since the flood of 1973,” said Jack Willingham, the Yazoo County emergency management director. “There is no way to get an accurate account of the damage just yet, and it’s not over yet. But around 20 families have already had to evacuate their homes.”

The Holly Bluff community has dealt with the rising waters for almost three months. But now the backwater is creeping into the town itself, which has become almost of a command center for the rural community.

Monday afternoon, with the temperatures reaching around 90 degrees, volunteers and residents had already bagged about 2,000 sandbags for distribution.

“About a thousand bags were done yesterday,” Willingham said. “Another thousand the day before that. But the Corps of Engineers arrived today with a sandbagging machine, and that has doubled what we are able to get bagged for folks.”

Monday morning, Willingham said the level had reached 98.07 and could possibly hit 98.5.

“It is growing daily,” he said. “Those folks have been underwater for 90 days. The mental and emotional stress is unbelievable. And we are a farm-based economy. This is going to have tremendous effect on the economy, our economy.”

Many residents cannot reach their properties anymore with the rising waters. They either check on their property by boat or tractor. Some residents within the town of Holly Bluff can still reach their homes, but they must walk through the water by foot. One man parked his vehicle on the road Monday afternoon, and walked through the waters just to get his groceries inside his home.

Liz Langley has been a member of Holly Bluff Baptist Church her whole life. And now the water is heading towards the local church. Sandbags have been placed around the parsonage, and a sign calling for prayers serves as a reminder.

“I was here in 1973, and I remember you had to get in a boat to get around because we didn’t have the levee then,” Langley said. “But I tear up today when I see the number of people who are out here today helping us. We have a lot of elderly people in this community who can’t do this. We are blessed to have this help.”

Aside from citizens, other volunteers include the Baptist Association, the Methodist Association, local volunteer fire departments, crews from Yazoo Valley Electric, the Corp of Engineers, MEMA, volunteers from St. Mark UMC in Brandon and a construction crew from Steelbuilt Roofing and Construction.

“We are extremely grateful for all the volunteers who are out here today,” Willingham said. “They are trying to protect what they can. They have certainly answered the call.”