Doug Mouton / Eyewitness News
NATCHEZ, MS - Leaders on both sides of the Mississippi River in Natchez call it "good news", as projections for the river's crest were downgraded a half foot Wednesday.
The Mississippi River is now expected to crest at 62.5 feet, down from an earlier projection of 63 feet.
That crest is expected to come Saturday.
"Best news I've had in a long time," Mayor Hyram Copeland of Vidalia, Louisiana said Wednesday, "and hopefully it stands for about two or three days then starts descending."
Vidalia sits on the Mississippi's west bank, Natchez, Mississippi on the east bank.
"Good news, very good news," Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said. "Anytime it lowers, it's very good news for both sides of the river."
On the Mississippi side, a massive three-tiered row of Hesco Baskets is protecting a low lying area called "Natchez Under the Hill."
Five million pounds of sand is successfully holding the river water back.
"I see a powerful force that needs to be respected and reckoned with," Mayor Middleton said.
Dozens of spectators on the scenic river walkway in Natchez agree.
"It's amazing," longtime area resident Bertha Holloman said, "and I wanted to take some pictures so I can have it, because I don't think it'll happen no time soon again."
"The river's big all year round, but it's massive now. It's amazing," Natchez native Charles McNeil said.
"I've never seen the river like this, of course, I never have, because it's never been like this."
The Mississippi stands at 61.9 feet in Natchez now, the highest level ever recorded, but not as high as predictions earlier this month.
"I went from being optimistic to being sick to my stomach to saying - how in the world can we prepare for a 65-foot crest when the highest on record is 58.4 in 1937," Mayor Copeland of Vidalia said.
On the Louisiana side of the River, workers used every method possible to try to keep water out of the Vidalia Convention Center, which sits on the river.
The U.S. Coast Guard began allowing barges to pass Wednesday after a one day shutdown in the Natchez area.
Those barges are moving one at a time, and in the center of the River, to reduce wakes.
"I think the one boat at a time is a good, safe precautious way to do, and you're still maintaining your river traffic," Mayor Middleton of Natchez said. "It's going to be awfully hard to totally close down the nation's largest waterway."
Neither Mayor expected any more river shutdowns, and both said they were ok with the way River traffic was being managed.
"I see a powerful force that needs to be respected and reckoned with," Mayor Middleton said of the River. "I hope we never see it this high again."
Mayor Middleton expects water to damage about a dozen homes upriver, but with the crest just a few days away, a drop in the River expected next week, he said he's now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think we're probably at a stage where we've seen the worst, and we're going to stay here for a little bit, and then we'll see the drop in the river and then we'll start breathing a little bit easier," Mayor Middleton said.