But, to get a good picture of the magnitude of the flood, you may need to take to the air. Tommy Gibbons, Dyersburg's emergency management director and a pilot for 12 years, decided to do that on his lunch break Tuesday. Impressed by the volume of flooding, he invited the State Gazette to document it Wednesday afternoon.
Brown water covered fields, circled houses and barns on mounds, and made roads impassable. The Mississippi River, overflowing its banks, stretched across the unprotected floodplain. The river channel was obscured, identifiable only because a barge was trying to power its way upstream.
The Mississippi River crested Wednesday morning about 7.6 feet above flood stage on the Caruthersville, Mo., gauge. The river forecast calls for gradually declining river levels, falling to 37.9 feet, or 5.9 feet above flood stage, on Monday.
What Wednesday's forecast apparently didn't take into consideration is the fact that water was to be released this week from Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, said Jack Ratliff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ratliff said both lakes are several feet higher than they should be at this time of year and rain is predicted later this week. The Tennessee River had been held behind the Kentucky Lake and Barkley dams until the Mississippi River crested here. The Tennessee River water release started Wednesday.
The addition of water from the Tennessee River should be reflected in the river forecast issued today, he said. That forecast may determine how long the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a temporary field office in Dyersburg.
Eight crew members are assigned to the Reelfoot-Obion Flood Fight Emergency Office here. They closely monitor flood-control structures, such as levees, floodwalls and pumping stations, in Dyer and Lake counties in Tennessee and in Fulton County, Ky.
While hundreds of acres are flooded, Ratliff said this has been a relatively easy flood fight. He said the water rose quickly and will fall relatively quickly, river crests weren't as high as expected and problems along the levees have been minor, he said.
Ratliff, commander of Dyersburg field office, said pin boils - areas where water is trickling through or under levees - have been reported in several places along the Dyer County Little Levee and on the federal mainline levee in Fulton County. Sand boils - areas where the water is flowing hard enough to move sand and soil particles - have been found in Fulton County. The Corps has placed rings of sandbags around four or five sand boil areas. The sandbags hold the seeping water in place and help equalize the pressure on either side of the levee.
One good thing about the flood is the timing. Ratliff said it came at an unusual time of the year. Often, the floods come in late spring while farmers are trying to get their crops planted. Farmers generally don't plant winter wheat - the only crop growing now - in low-lying fields because of the threat of flooding.
The flood, however, did force three families from their homes last week. Deborrah Pugh, chapter manager for the American Red Cross in Dyersburg, said one family left after their home was surrounded by water. Two more, both of which are dealing with health problems, left when it appeared that they would be trapped in their homes.
The Red Cross provided the families with a week's stay in a local motel. Their week ends today. With the river falling, Pugh said two families will probably return home today but the third may need to stay a little longer. "It depends on how soon the water falls," she said.
Red Cross volunteers, who have been monitoring the extent of the flooding, reported no homes have been flooded.