Keeping Mississippi Floodwaters Out Of New Orleans
To have flood water rise over the levees could be another catastrophe for New Orleans. Just seeing the light of day in some parts of the town, while many other parts are still devastated from Katrina, this could be a blow from which the Crescent City might never be the same.
Waging war on a flood of historic proportions that has already affected thousands in eight Midwestern and Southern states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flooded a spillway Monday north of New Orleans in an effort to calm the rising Mississippi River.
A crowd gathered near the entrance to the Bonnet Carré Spillway to watch cranes slide open the gates to the flood control system, which was built beginning in 1929 after a devastating flood.
Upstream in Memphis, Tennessee, residents and authorities anxiously waited for the Mississippi to crest at a near-record 14 feet above flood stage.
And in between, their counterparts in Mississippi and Louisiana continued to prepare for the flooding under the protection of a system of levees and flood gates that Corps’ officials said were holding up well considering the unprecedented pressure they are enduring.
“This water that we’re seeing coming by is moving 2 million cubic feet per second,” said Corps of Engineers Col. Vernie Reichling of the situation on Sunday outside Memphis. “To use an analogy, in one second that water would fill up a football field 44 feet deep.”
That means there’s no time to relax, said Col. Ed Fleming, commander of the Corps’ New Orleans District.
“There is no doubt that we are stressing the system,” he said. “These are historic flows.”