Heavy rains of this spring have swollen the Mississippi River — so much so that it is inundating farmlands and homes are being evacuated along its route. While the flooding has submerged low-laying lands near the river and threatens to submerge buildings in Memphis and New Orleans, it is also drawing crowds as it snakes its way south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Forecasters say the Mississippi River could crest late Monday at Memphis — hours sooner than previously predicted — but the mayor says the city's ready for it.
Mayor AC Wharton said that despite the tightened timeframe, he's confident that precautions such as door-to-door warnings have prepared the city. "We don't have as much time, but fortunately we're ready for it," Wharton told The Early Show on CBS Monday.
The river was at the highest level seen since 1937, when it crested in Memphis at 14.7 feet above flood stage and caused a flood that killed 500 people and swamped 20 million acres of land, Reichling said.
In Downtown Memphis, the river was three miles wide Monday. Normally, it's a half-mile wide.
Water was already marching up Beale Street, the city's famous musical mecca, forcing the evacuation of dozens of nightclubs and homes.
But most of downtown sits on a bluff, so there was no immediate threat to landmarks like the historic Sun Studio, where Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got their starts.
Also, the water was not expected to reach Presley's iconic home Graceland, which is farther inland.
Flood waters were about a half-mile (800 meters) from the Beale Street's world-famous nightspots, which are on higher ground.
The river already reached record levels in some areas upstream, thanks to heavy rains and snowmelt. It spared Kentucky and northwest Tennessee any catastrophic flooding and no deaths have been reported there, but some low lying towns and farmland along the banks of the river have been inundated.