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VOL. 126 | NO. 85 | Monday, May 2, 2011

Barbecue Decision Next for MIM; Cordova Shelter Goes to Capacity

By Bill Dries

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The Beale Street Music Festival came to a close Sunday evening before the rains resumed. Now organizers of the month-long festival have a decision to make about whether to go forward with the barbecue-cooking contest that opens to the public May 12, two days after the river at Memphis is forecast to crest at 45 feet.

Construction on the more than 250 barbecue booths in Tom Lee Park is scheduled to begin this week.

The options, as outlined by festival organizers last week, include postponing the barbecue contest, moving it to an alternate location or closing off the south end of the park, which is the lowest park of the park and the part that would flood if the river reaches the park itself.

Monday morning began with the Mississippi River at 42.1 feet on the river gauge at Memphis.

The most visible effect of the rising river was at Mud Island’s Greenbelt Park where the muddy water has now closed both parking lots – north and south – and the water is a few yards away from the walkway that is closest to the main north-south street running the length of the island’s residential north end.

A tow boat pushing a load of barges stayed within the main northbound river channel of the swollen river. But its position on the much higher river made it seem much larger and closer than the river’s commercial traffic appears to be even during normal spring flooding.

Mid-morning traffic on Island Drive was heavy as Memphians came to see the river for themselves. There was no flooding on either side of the A.W. Willis bridge, the main thoroughfare onto the island.

Over the weekend, the first two emergency shelters opened, and the first, at Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, was at capacity with 200 citizens who had voluntarily evacuated their homes. Most were from two trailer and mobile home parks in the Frayser and North Shelby County area that have been beset by frequent flooding in the past.

A second shelter at Cummings Street Baptist Church on East Raines had another 40 citizens as Monday began.

There have been no mandatory evacuations.

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