Shelby Forest Residents Wait, Watch

By Aisling Maki

As the region prepared for the Mississippi River to crest, it was pretty much business as usual Monday morning at Shelby Forest General Store, 7729 Benjestown Road, near Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, as regulars stopped in for breakfast and exchanged neighborhood news on the front porch.

“We’re not as busy as we’d normally be, but we’re still open for business,” said Kristin Ammons, proprietor of the store, which also sells dry goods and live bait. “People are still coming in to go fishing and go to the park, and we’ve had a lot of sightseers who want to see how high the river has come up.”

Ammons said neighborhood residents continue to go about their business, but she described the mood in the face of flooding as cautious.

“People are hearing things and getting water and food in case they do get trapped, but people immediately here aren’t fearing that water would come in their house, but they know they may be cut off by closed roads,” she said.

She said some residents are still busy recovering from damage caused by trees that fell on homes during recent storms.

A few miles away on lower ground at 4535 Benjestown Road, nonprofit Memphis Union Mission has evacuated and relocated Calvary Colony, which houses 46 men who are homeless, addicted or otherwise in crisis, as well as several families from its adjacent Intact Family Ministry.

Located near the Loosahatchie River, the property itself has not yet been flooded, but MUM took precautions to ensure the safety of its residents.

“We don’t think that the property itself is going to be affected, but it’s just isolated,” said Steve Carpenter of MUM. “If they got cut off, that would create a tremendous problem.”

The men have been placed at MUM’s Opportunity Center, Wright Transitional House and other Mission properties until the flooding subsides, while the families have been temporarily placed with relatives.

A few miles away at Mirimichi, the golf course owned by entertainer Justin Timberlake at 6195 Woodstock Cuba Road, employees were taking every precaution to protect the property, which received an additional foot of water between Sunday and Monday.

“We’re waiting to see how much more we’re going to get,” said Deb Peterson, Mirimichi director of sales and marketing. “We’ve already put together our disaster recovery plan and we’ll be out there getting it ready to reopen. We hope we can be open in six weeks or less.”

Peterson said the staff is doing everything they can to protect the site’s buildings, including the construction of an aquadam, which she said is basically a large tube filled with about 450,000 gallons of water.

“We have put up an aquadam around our performance center that should protect it,” Peterson said. “It can go up as much as 10 feet and protect us against seven feet of water. That was a real big concern that we protect that building. We’re feeling pretty optimistic about that. Since we went through that last year, we kind of know what we’re going to do and we’ve got our action plan and equipment ready.”

Mirimichi was also affected by floods last spring, which Peterson said was a “totally different scenario because it was a flash food; it came in a very short period of time. This is a different scenario because as the tributaries fill up they spill over.”

The biggest concern, she said, is being isolated as a result of closed thoroughfares.

“We’re just watching the roads because there are different roads around us that are getting water and we’re trying to make sure we can get in and out.”

Area residents have experienced traffic delays on U.S. 51 North, where both lanes between Fite Road and Watkins Street have been shut down because of high waters.

Shelby County government officials said they’ve been handing out alert notices to some Shelby Forest and Northaven residents identified as being impacted in some way.

“Everyone is working together to ensure the safety of people, and that we not send panic through the neighborhoods, but we are beginning to come to a close and critical time,” said Shelby County spokesman Steve Shular. “We’ve been telling people that the river is going to crest and that there will be concerns when it does. Anybody who’s been flooded before will be flooded again.”

Shular said there’s no mandatory evacuation; county government doesn’t have the authority to order anyone out of their homes.

“But based on the conditions we’re starting to see that we’ve been talking about for a over a week, we’re getting into a critical time,” he said. “The water is getting to an area that’s going to affect homes and businesses.”