The crest of the swollen Mississippi River has rolled past Memphis, Tennessee and into the mostly poor, fertile Mississippi Delta region.
Floodwaters have already washed away crops, damaged hundreds of homes and closed the casinos that have become key to Mississippi's economy. All 19 casinos along the river are to be shuttered by the end of the week. It's estimated that will cost governments at least $12 million in taxes per month.
In Vicksburg, Mississippi, some places are already under several feet of water and the crest is not expected before Saturday. Forecasters say the river is likely to peak above the record level set during the flood of 1927.
William Jefferson says water started coming into his house a few days ago and is now at least three feet deep. Standing in rubber boots, watching fish swim up and down his street, Jefferson and his brother debated whether it would be safe to eat fish from the filthy floodwater.
Upstream, Memphis, Tennessee was spared a record flood, but low-lying neighborhoods have been inundated. Residents says they've seen snakes and fish swimming around their homes too.
The National Weather Service says the river crested early Tuesday morning at just under 48 feet, falling short of its all-time record. It's expected to stay close to the level until some time Wednesday.
Meteorologist Bill Borghoff says most of the damage has been done, but it will take weeks for the water to recede. While the flooding is isolated to low-lying neighborhoods, one emergency officials says "it's going to be rather putrid" and expensive to clean up.
President Barack Obama has a disaster area in Tennessee, making five counties eligible for federal aid.
Downstream, residents in the Mississippi Delta are now bracing for their own encounter with the high water. Farmers are building homemade levees to protect their crops while engineers are diverting water into a lake to ease pressure on levees around New Orleans.
One farmer who mowed down his wheat fields to get dirt for levees says he would have lost the crop to flooding anyway. He's hoping the levees protect his home and grain silos, which are holding 200,000 bushels of rice.
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