UPDATED, Monday at 1:40 p.m.:
The Mississippi River is now expected to crest sooner than expected, with the river projected to top out at 48 feet on Monday evening at around 7 p.m., the New York Times reports.
Emergency officials spent hours Monday morning going door-to-door to urge residents in low-lying areas to evacuate. The river has been steadily rising for days and had been expected to peak sometime Tuesday.
In total, more than 1,300 have been told to evacuate, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Original Post, Sunday at 1:47 p.m.
Communities living along the Mississippi River are bracing for the worst flooding in nearly a century, as waters continue to rise along the swollen waterway, breaking high watermark records last set before the Great Depression.
Evacuations have already begun along the Mississippi Delta; 17 casinos in the river’s namesake state will be closed by next week, and hundreds of residents in and around Memphis, Tenn., have been asked by officials to leave their homes and seek higher ground.
“This is historic,” Col. Jeffrey R. Eckstein of the Vicksburg District of the Army Corps of Engineers told the New York Times. “Things that have never happened, people here have never seen before, we are going to see.”
Heavy rains, some from the violent storms that battered Southern states and killed several hundred in recent weeks, have local officials worried about flooding along the river’s thousands of tributaries.
The last great flood of the region in 1927 flooded 27,000 square miles and killed hundreds. Though the crest has yet to go beat 1927’s highest numbers, many expect that in the next few weeks the river will rise several feet above them. In Memphis, the current crest level is the second highest of the city’s history, just shy of the 48.7-foot number reached in 1937.
Infrastructure to protect from flooding in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi is already being tested, and though levees have been built up in anticipation, many are worried the region will be underprepared for the sheer volume of water being brought through communities along feeder waterways. A major concern is the Yazoo River, which meets the Mississippi River above Vicksburg, Miss. A census analysis by the Associated Press estimates some 4 million people live in the area that might be affected by flooding.