Mississippi Floods – Open the floodway

Due to the severe flooding experienced from the Mississippi river in Louisiana, the decision has been made to open to Morganza floodway to designed to minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun opening the Morganza Floodway to divert water from the rain-swollen Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya basin. This has been carried out by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding in the Baton Rouge area and New Orleans. BBC News has indicated that while the flooding that has already occurred in Louisiana is the worst since 1927, it has been estimated that if the spillway had not been opened New Orleans could expect floodwater up to 6m high. This was the second-ever opening of the nearly 60-year-old structure 186 miles away from  New Orleans where a crane lifted a gate covering one of the spillway structure’s 125 bays (as seen below).

Morganza Floodway

The BBC  highlight that:

”By opening its floodgates engineers are able to control the flow of the floodwaters, diverting them around Baton Rouge into the Atchafalaya river basin, a low-lying area of central Louisiana.)

Water will flow south, flooding homes and farms in the state’s Cajun country under an expected 10-20ft of water.

Over several days, the water should run south to Morgan City – where workers are rushing to reinforces levees – and then into the Gulf of Mexico.”

While this may seem extreme, when you consider the floodwater levels some towns have seen due to the floodwater it is possible to understand why such measures have had to take place.The video produced by the BBC explore some of the damaged areas : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13398819

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a map that illustrates what residents in the path of flood waters can expect over the next week.

A number of scenarios has been modelled to plan for different variations in water movement. More details about these can be found on the US Army Corp of Engineers Website.

10 Key Facts about the Mississippi River:


  1. The Mississippi River, 3,779 km (2,348 mi) long, is the second longest river, after the Missouri, in the United States.
  2. The Mississippi basin has a triangular drainage area, covering about 40% of the country and including all or part of 31 states, is approximately 3,250,000 sq km (1,250,000 sq mi), the third largest in the world.
  3. It originates at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and ends 153km downstream below New Orleans, where it enters the Gulf of Mexico.
  4. At its widest point, the Mississippi River stretches out over 7 miles (11 km) in width.
  5. At the headwaters of the Mississippi, the average surface speed of the water is near 1.2 miles per hour – roughly one-third as fast as people walk. At New Orleans, on 2/24/2003, the speed of the river was 3 miles per hour.
  6. Sixty percent of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi River Basin as their migratory flyway.
  7. The name “Mississippi” comes from the Anishinabe people (Ojibwe Indians). They called the river “Messipi” or “Mee-zee-see-bee,” which means “Big River” or “Father of Waters.”
  8. At Lake Itasca, the elevation of the Mississippi River is 450m (1,475 feet) above sea level. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.
  9. A January 2000 study published by the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee states that close to 15 million people rely on the Mississippi River or its tributaries in just the upper half of the basin (from Cairo, IL to Minneapolis, MN).
  10. The Mississippi River has had strong historical significance in the USA from Native American tribes through to European explorers, the American Civil War, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and its modern commercial uses.
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