NATCHEZ (AP) — The Mississippi River is expected to rise above flood stage here sometime Monday, and authorities are concerned flooding could become a problem in the coming weeks.

Flood stage near Natchez is 48 feet above gauge zero. At 47 feet, water will begin to enter the former Belwood Golf Course and Carthage Point Road in southern Adams County.

U.S. Corps of Engineers spokesman Frank Whorley said the Corps plans to go into a phase I flood fight by Monday.

‘‘That means we will begin to patrol up and down the levees and provide assistance to the levee boards as we see they need it,’’ Whorley said.

A flood warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for the lower Mississippi River region. Experts predict the river will continue to rise until it reaches its crest height near Natchez April 6, when National Weather Service models predict it will reach a height of 53.5 feet. That would be the highest the river has gotten here since 1997.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Marty Pope said flood predictions are based on several factors.

‘‘Basically, we look at what rainfall has fallen on the ground in our area,’’ Pope said. ‘‘What makes it interesting for the Mississippi River is that you are looking at everything that is coming down the upper Mississippi River leg and the Ohio River where they come together at Cairo, Ill.’’

Just across the river in from Natchez in Louisiana, the Concordia Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness will also begin levee patrols when the river reaches its flood stage, Director Morris White said.

‘‘The thing about river floods is that they don’t happen really fast,’’ Whorley said. ‘‘They’re not like a hurricane, which comes in one day and is gone the next.’’

The weather service also takes into consideration how much water the corps of engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority are releasing from the dams they maintain.

Officials in Vicksburg, Miss., are also keeping a close watch on the water level. Flood stage at the city is 43 feet. The river is forecast to rise above flood stage Wednesday, and crest at 46 feet on April 5.

The river isn’t expected to crest near Vicksburg for a week, but flooding is already visible in many locations in the area. The Big Black River has spilled out of its banks south of the city. A portion of Chickasaw Road is under water and impassable. Many roads on the unprotected side of the levee off Mississippi 465 are also under water, including Ziegler Road where a row of homes on stilts have become inaccessible by vehicle.











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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/



AP-CS-03-23-08 1515EDT

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