Thousands in Memphis told to evacuate as flood waters close in - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Thousands in Memphis told to evacuate as flood waters close in

Flood waters near Riverside Drive Friday morning in Memphis. (Source: My 5) Flood waters near Riverside Drive Friday morning in Memphis. (Source: My 5)

(WMC-TV) - Teams from Shelby County and the city of Memphis conducted a door-to-door operation Friday to tell thousands of residents it is time to evacuate.

Meanwhile, the parking lot of the Raleigh Springs mall was an oasis Friday for Shelby County residents being targeted by flood waters.

Elizabeth Benson checked in to see if her house off Thomas and Frayser Boulevard was in danger. The news wasn't good.

"I need to prepare for the possibility of being flooded out," she said.

Local authorities were uncertain whether they had legal authority to order evacuations, and hoped the fliers would persuade people to leave. Bob Nations, director of emergency management for Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said there was still time to get out. The river is not expected to crest until Wednesday.

"This does not mean that water is at your doorstep," Nations said of the door-to-door effort. "This means you are in a high-impact area."

About 950 households in Memphis and about 135 other homes in Shelby County received the notices, Shelby County Division Fire Chief Joseph Rike said. Emergency workers handed out bright yellow fliers in English and Spanish that read, "Evacuate!!! Your property is in danger right now."

Memphis Police knocked on Pamela Holliday's front door Friday morning.

"The police were telling us if the flood waters get any higher they will turn off electricity and we will have to move," she said.

But Holliday didn't need a flyer to tell her flood waters were inching dangerously close.  A few doors down, Reverend George Turks didn't get a flyer.  His church, St Paul AME was almost under water.  

"To me it's too little late, you know?  I think there should have been more warning," he said.

In a section of south Memphis outside the evacuation zone, Billy Burke stood in his backyard, where water from a creek has been rising for days. About 20 feet away, a fish jumped out of a pool of standing brown water.

"I'm going to stay as long as I can," Burke said. "But if the water goes up another 10 feet, I'm out of here."

As flood waters rise so do the number of evacuees who need a place to go.  Back at the command post, wrist bands will track who checks into a shelter and when. The wristbands have a bar code which is entered into a data base. Then, a scanner can track where an evacuee is staying and reunite them with their families if they get separated.

No matter how efficient, the emergency response system can't keep the river from rising, but it can lower the risk of injuries and casualties, and keep families together before during and after the disaster.

Click here for a list of emergency shelters in our area.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. The AP contributed to this story.

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