SEAN GARDNER / Reuters
Freddie Walker stacks sandbags to protect Ergon Marina along the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Mississippi on Tuesday.
By Thanh Truong, NBC News Correspondent
VICKSBURG, Miss. – Austin Golding is the third generation in his family making a living off the Mississippi River.
Back in 1967, his grandfather founded Golding Barge Line. The company moves millions of pounds of product (mostly petroleum) up and down the river each year – but now its office in Vicksburg is surrounded by water. We met him as he gave us a lift in a boat across what used to be the office's parking lot.
"I was raised around this river, and I've never seen it this high. No one alive has seen it this high. When you're around the water this much you learn to respect the river and its power real quick," he said.
With his bright blue eyes and youthful face, the 25-year-old spoke with a tone of experience you would expect to hear coming from a river man twice his age. But he and most people in Vicksburg know the potential for flooding. The Mississippi River and Yazoo River meet in Vicksburg. The city expects to see the water rise to levels not seen since 1927.
"This is going to be an epic flood. I just pray that the infrastructure that's in place and the work that's been done will protect us," said Golding.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
Jermaine Jarrett paddles a boat down a flooded street in his neighborhood on Monday in Memphis, Tenn. Click on the photo to see a slideshow of the floods across the U.S.
There are temporary flood walls along the levees near downtown; water though is already seeping through those walls. Low-lying areas along the Yazoo River have already had roads swallowed by rising water. The worst flooding isn't expected for at least another week.
"We'll be here, we're not going anywhere. This is our life. This river has given us so much but when it comes – you just get the hell out of its way," Golding said.