Watery week ahead as Mississippi floodwaters hit Memphis, move downriver
Mississippi River at record level in Memphis, Tenn., where some areas are already underwater. It's expected to get higher, with floodwaters to linger for days. Evacuations are under way.
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As water moves through the upper Delta, areas further downstream are bracing for even higher water levels.Skip to next paragraph
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The highest are expected in Natchez and Vicksburg, two historic Mississippi towns. The river's level in Vicksburg is expected to rise to 57.5 feet on May 20 and 64 feet in Natchez on May 22 – breaking records set during the 1927 and 1937 floods.
Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the Mississippi Valley Division of the US Army Corps of Engineers, says higher floodwaters are expected to penetrate areas along the Yazoo River, which feeds into the Mississippi near Natchez. A series of backwater levees will be activated to relieve pressure from the main levees that sit adjacent to the river, he says.
In Louisiana, the Army Corps is set to open two floodways designed to divert the flow away from New Orleans and channel it into the Gulf of Mexico. Without use of the floodways, water would be expected to crest at 19.5 feet in New Orleans on May 24, just six inches below the top of the levee system there.
Located between Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans, the Bonnet Carre Spillway will open Monday at 8 a.m. The Morganza floodway, located north and west of Baton Rouge near the Atchafalaya River Basin, may open as early as Thursday.
The Morganza was last used in 1973. However, the Bonnet Carre was opened nine times since 1937, most recently in 2008. Mr. Anderson says approximately 20,000 people will be negatively affected by the use of the Morganza Floodway, which could remain open for several weeks. Widespread flooding along the floodway is expected to reach 25 feet in height.
On Friday, the Army Corps notified residents of Pointe Coupee, St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia, Iberville, St. Mary, and Terrebonne parishes, all located along the Morganza, to contact local officials about potential evacuation plans.
“Anytime you build a structure or a home in a floodway, it’s always taking a bit of a risk,” he says.