BY HOLBROOK MOHR

Associated Press

VICKSBURG — The Mississippi could drop below flood stage at a key gauge in Vicksburg for the first time in nearly six weeks and officials said Thursday that repairs could start soon on a levee that was blown in Missouri to relieve pressure from the swollen river.

These are key milestones in the historic flood of 2011, but the slow-moving, weekslong disaster could require years of recovery and cost $1 billion in repairs to the levee system alone, officials said.

Col. Thatch Shepard, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River Division, said the government will have to prioritize projects based on funding. He said the flood put unprecedented stress on a levee system that cost $13 billion to construct since 1928.

Shepard joined other corps officials Thursday on a large barge on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, where the water has slowly retreated back toward it banks after reaching 57.1 feet — almost a foot higher than the previous record set in 1927.

Like other areas along the Mississippi, Vicksburg is drying out, but recovery will take time. About 200 houses flooded in the city alone, with more in surrounding Warren County and other low spots on the unprotected side of the levees. The flooded Mississippi also forced tributaries to flow backward, pushing water upstream for miles and flooding tens of thousands of acres in Mississippi alone.

 

Photo courtesy of Lucy Fields Spangler, Vicksburg resident and my sister.

 

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