Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to break record for longest river flood event since 1927 on May 21
By Kyle Elliott, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 14, 2019, 1:07:44 AM EDT
Parts of the south-central United States hammered by severe weather and flash flooding this past week will face long-term river flooding through the rest of May and even into June.
Southeastern Texas, including the Houston area, was hit hard by a couple rounds of flooding downpours, damaging winds and large hail last week. Ten inches of rain fell in Sugar Land, Texas, on Tuesday alone.
The caboose of the onslaught of severe weather and heavy rain came on Saturday into Sunday morning to areas from eastern Texas to Mississippi and Louisiana.
Rainfall totals from Tuesday to Sunday were as high as 14.26 inches near Richmond, Texas, and 14.07 inches near Perkinston, Mississippi.
Dry weather will continue to hold across northeastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley into Tuesday.
While some showers and thunderstorms return to part of the Texas coast by Tuesday, the rain is not expected to trigger widespread concerns for aggravated flooding. Dry weather should hold across the lower Mississippi Valley through most of the week.
“River flooding may continue into June as floodwaters in rivers farther north travel southward and add onto the ongoing flooding along the lower Mississippi River,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.
Heavy and potentially severe thunderstorms may return to eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley this weekend, threatening to cause additional rises on rivers or slow the rate of recession.
Moderate to major flooding is already occurring along nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River from the Iowa/Illinois border to west of New Orleans, Louisiana.
In addition, flooding is taking place along the Missouri, Sabine, Wabash and White rivers, as well as other rivers in the central United States.
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Although the water levels on these smaller rivers should fall below flood stage by the early to middle part of this week, it will take at least one to two weeks for a crest to be reached along lower parts of the Mississippi River.
Minor flooding is expected to continue into this weekend at Memphis, Tennessee, before the water level finally drops below flood stage late in the weekend or early next week.
However, the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi, is not expected to reach its crest of 50 feet, or major flood stage, until May 19 or 20.
At Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it may take until the final week of May for the Mississippi to crest.
Hydrologists at the National Weather Service expect the river at Baton Rouge to gradually rise to 44 feet, which will significantly affect shipping and industrial activities. However, the river may be within a foot of this level for a week or longer.
Although not forecast to reach record flood stage, the river will remain above major flood stage into at least the end of May.
"On May 21, 2019, this flood event will become the longest in duration at Baton Rouge since the flood event of 1927, which lasted 135 days," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski, "and the river may not return to its banks until at least the middle of June."
Last Friday, the Bonnet Carré Spillway in Louisiana was opened to divert floodwaters on the Mississippi River to farmlands and Lake Pontchartrain instead of passing near New Orleans and other communities.
As a result, the river level at New Orleans fell below minor flood stage of 17 feet earlier this weekend.
However, the heavy rain from Saturday night to Sunday morning brought the river briefly back above that stage. While the city will stay protected by levees until the river rises to 20 feet (which is currently not anticipated), operators of ships and boats can face difficulties navigating and docking on the river.
The flooding disaster will not only cause a huge monetary loss for homeowners, farmers and communities impacted by it, but it will also threaten lives and may trigger many more water rescues through the end of May.
Anybody displaced by the floodwaters may not be able to return and begin cleanup and recovery efforts for at least a month until the river falls below flood stage.
Unfortunately, AccuWeather predicts more flooding events to occur into the summer.
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