The Latest: Tennessee mudslide work may continue for weeks

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on flooding in the South (all times local):

5 p.m.

Workers are continuing to clear a mudslide in Tennessee, where transportation officials say part of Interstate 24 may be closed until March 15 or longer.

Mud, rocks and trees slid down a hillside Saturday north of Nashville, blocking eastbound traffic leading into the city.

Assistant Chief Engineer of Operations Will Reid of the state Transportation Department told The Tennessean repairs will involve building three-fourths of a mile to a mile of interstate within two weeks, a task that normally would take months. The cost could reach $1 million or more.

Reid said it will take about 5,000 dump truck loads to clear all the debris. By Wednesday, 96 loads had been moved.

Transportation Department Chief Engineer Paul Degges said a record-breaking volume of rainfall during the past month was a significant factor in the slide.


12:05 p.m.

Water from recent rainfalls is pooling up behind a Mississippi levee and could cause record flooding.

Mississippi Levee Board Chief Engineer Peter Nimrod said Wednesday that water inside the Yazoo Backwater Levee could reach the highest levels since the levee was completed in 1978.

The levee protects hundreds of square miles of the Delta region from even worse flooding by the Mississippi River. But when officials close a floodgate that keeps out the big river, water draining from the north has nowhere to go, rising inside the levee.

That gate is closed now and is unlikely to reopen until after the river crests in Vicksburg in mid-March.

Clay Adcock, who farms 3,800 acres near Holly Bluff, says he's building a levee around his home, which has never flooded in the 34 years he's lived there. He says all but about 200 acres of his land will be unfarmable until water recedes, forcing him to change what crops he plants this year.


10:40 a.m.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun opening a historic flood control structure west of New Orleans to divert water from the rising Mississippi River and ease pressure on levees that protect the city.

Cranes were used Wednesday morning to lift heavy wooden timbers from sections of the Bonnet Carre (BAHN'-eh CARE'-ee) Spillway structure. That allows some of the water from the rain-swollen river to flow through the structure and over a broad expanse of land into Lake Pontchartrain.

Wednesday's opening of the structure marks the first time it has been operated in consecutive years. It's the 13th time it's been operated since construction was completed in 1931.

Plans to open the spillway were announced as the rate of flow at New Orleans approached 1.25 million cubic feet per second.

Rain-swollen rivers are spilling over their banks across the South.


10 a.m.

The Mississippi River is closed to navigation at Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a 30-barge tow struck a railroad bridge between the city and Louisiana as rain-swollen rivers are spilling over banks across the South.

Bridge superintendent Herman Smith tells The Vicksburg Post the MV Chad Tregrache, operated by Marquette Transportation of Paducah, Kentucky, struck the bridge just after 7 a.m. Wednesday.

U.S. Coast Guard officials say two grain barges sank, but no injuries were reported. Coast Guard officials are on site investigating.

The railroad bridge, owned by a local government commission and operated by the Kansas City Southern Railway, is also closed.

Tows frequently strike the bridge, especially when the Mississippi River is high. River levels at Vicksburg are rising and are predicted to crest later this month at one of the 10 highest levels on record.


7:10 a.m.

Rain-swollen rivers are spilling over their banks across the South, and a Mississippi mayor says water has surrounded his town and forced some families to leave their homes.

Forecasters say flood warnings were in place Wednesday in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

In Glendora, Mississippi, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported Wednesday that the town of 151 people is caught between the flooded Tallahatchie River to the north and the Black Bayou to the south.

Glendora Mayor Johnny Thomas says the water is within inches of covering U.S. Highway 49 in both directions.

Thomas says "I hope it doesn't get worse. We've only got one way out of here."

City workers filled sandbags Tuesday afternoon, and a shelter opened for those displaced.


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