Memphis Homes Inundated With Water Water, water everywhere — and there's just too much of the wet stuff. As a big surge of water moves down the Mississippi River, city leaders in Memphis and points south prepare for more flooding.
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Memphis Homes Inundated With Water

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Memphis Homes Inundated With Water

Memphis Homes Inundated With Water

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The crest of the Mississippi River's flood waters passed Memphis quietly this morning. City officials and many residents breathed sighs of relief. The levees are holding back the Mississippi. The only significant flooding is along tributaries.

But more than 1,000 homes remain inundated, and as NPR's David Schaper reports from Memphis, the high water is expected to be around for a while.

DAVID SCHAPER: I'm standing on the water's edge on Mud Island in Memphis, where the high-water mark is visible by a line of mud, debris and a little bit of driftwood as the flood waters have slowly begun to retreat a few inches.

But there is still an enormous amount of water spread far beyond the Mississippi River's normal banks. It's an incredible sight.

Mayor AC WHARTON (Memphis, Tennessee): It has no real form out there now. It's almost, literally, water as far as the eye can see, that's way into Arkansas.

SCHAPER: Memphis Mayor AC Wharton is still amazed by what he sees out his seventh floor window in city hall, perched atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi.

Mayor WHARTON: You've seen the bumper stickers: Have you lost a river? I've lost a river. I don't know where the channel is were it not for the fact that I can see the bridge.

SCHAPER: This river is normally half a mile wide here but is now three miles wide. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say the levees protecting Memphis and other riverfront cities have done what they are designed to do.

Downtown Memphis and much of the rest of the city is dry, but there is devastating localized flooding along tributaries that would normally empty into the Mississippi but can't because of its near record high water level.

Ms. BRENDA TERRY: I was so scared when I seen the water, we left everything. Computers, cell phones, we left everything.

SCHAPER: Brenda Terry is sitting at a folding table at White Station Church Of Christ, which is one of the Red Cross shelters for those displaced by the floods. Terry says she, her boyfriend and two children evacuated from their mobile home almost two weeks ago, on April 29th.

Ms. TERRY: When we seen the water, I knew that it was coming, you know, that it was going to get really, really bad. My daughter's in a wheelchair. You know, we need to get out. So that's what we did. We all loaded up in separate cars. We got out.

I went back the next day, and it was rising. I went back on the first, and it was just, you wouldn't believe it. You wouldn't believe how that water just shot up on them trailers.

SCHAPER: Terry says she cannot even get close to her flooded trailer now because so many roads in the area are under water, and it may take weeks for the levels to drop back down so they can return, not that she's looking forward to that day anyway.

Ms. TERRY: I know it's a mess. I just have to start from scratch, just start over.

SCHAPER: There are hundreds of others here in Memphis in similar situations, who will not be able to return to their homes and will need help finding housing, among other services.

The Red Cross says it will keep its shelters open as long as they're needed and will continue to provide food, clothing and other necessities. As many as 400 people are staying in shelters around Memphis. Thousands of others who fled to higher ground are with friends or relatives.

With the passing of the Mississippi's crest, there is comfort in knowing there is little risk of more homes flooding here, but there is still a lot of anxiety over the long, slow clean-up task that lies ahead.

David Schaper, NPR News, Memphis.

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