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Tenn. mayor tries to avoid panic in flood zone

Residents from Illinois to Louisiana are bracing for flooding as high water keeps rolling down the Mississippi River, threatening to swamp communities and farmland.

Among the places already affected by the rising flood waters is Dyersburg, Tenn.

On "The Early Show" Friday, John Holden, the town's mayor, said it's preparing for what could be the worst flooding since 1927.

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Holden's biggest concern, he said, is that waters could continue to rise from the Mississippi.

He explained, "It reached a record crest the other day, or a record height the other day, and it's going to continue to rise to 51 foot. We're 20 miles from the river. We've had flooding here in Dyersburg at 28 foot at the Forked Deer River. The river possibly will flow backward into our community, so we've got a situation that we have to monitor on the hour to make sure that we're taking care of our citizens."

Holden has urged evacuations, co-anchor Chris Wragge noted.

Holden said, "We're just monitoring the situation by the hour. A lot of people have left. It's been an orderly progression of people leaving our community. You know, the river's going to dictate what we're going to do, and so we're going to try to take care of our citizens, make them aware of what's going on so they can make the decisions and get out of their communities and their homes. But it is a situation that we're really concerned about, and we're going to do our best to give them the information about what they need to do."

Holden said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to shore up levees in the area.

He said, "The Great River Road, 18 miles from here, separates the Mississippi River and Dyersburg. There's some concern about the river topping those levees, and the Corps of Engineers is down there now in some locations, adding fill across the top of those levees to keep the water from spilling in to our community."

Wragge said, "What do you tell some of the folks in your community? I meany this is not the first time you've gone through this. You've got some people that are still in the process of rebuilding as we speak from the floods last year. I mean, what do you say to your folks?"

Holden said he continues to be "optimistic, as much as possible."

"We had a historic flooding in Dyersburg, Tennessee, last year, when the river rose to 32 foot, and you know, just tell them to hang in there, we're here to help them, support them, do all we can to give them the information they need," he said. "We've got houses being built from last year's flooding, and you know, we're all going through this. It's affecting eight states, and we're doing the best we can do to equip our residents, let them know what's happening and just remain calm. Not panic, but just be prepared. And that's the message we're giving to our residents in Dyersburg."

Holden, who sees the floods year in and out, said he's concerned about the people who leave the area.

He said, "In Dyersburg, this community that we're standing in now - south Dyersburg, a lot of folks out here were affected by the flooding that occurred. We lost over 400 homes and businesses ... last year by the events."

Holden continued, "You know, some people probably will give up and not move back to this community and that concerns us, because obviously we want people to stay here and have business here and do all they can do for our community. But, you know, there would be some people that won't come back and some that didn't come back from last year."

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