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    Record Flooding Despite Opening of Morganza Spillway

    By By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
    May 16, 2011, 8:21:22 AM EDT

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    "There is no impact on river levels upstream"

    Despite the Army Corps of Engineers opening the Morganza Spillway in Louisiana, record flooding will continue to inundate communities to the north.

    Opening a spillway or levee only aids in easing the flooding downstream along the river's banks.

    There is no impact on river levels upstream, evident by looking at projected stages north of the Morganza Spillway.

    The record flooding that is already under way at Red River Landing, La., and Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss., will actually worsen in the upcoming days.

    The Mississippi River should top out at 63.5 feet next Saturday at Natchez. Prior to this year, the record level was 58.04 feet from February 1937.

    The river has never reached the major flood stage of 64.0 feet at Red River Landing, but that height will get surpassed by 0.5 of a foot next Sunday.

    On the other hand, the desired effect of the Mississippi River stabilizing downstream after the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway Saturday afternoon was achieved.

    The river level at New Orleans will remain around 17 feet this week. Before the opening of the Morganza Spillway, the city was preparing for a crest of 19.5 feet. Levees protect New Orleans up to a stage of 20 feet.


    A record crest of 47.5 feet was originally forecast by National Weather Service hydrologists in Baton Rouge on May 22. The river is now less than a foot from cresting at 45.0 feet Monday morning.

    Once the Mississippi River crests, its level at Baton Rouge and places downstream will hold nearly steady until the Army Corps of Engineers close the Morganza and Bonnet Carre spillways.

    In order to stabilize the river level at Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Army Corps had to sacrifice land and communities in Louisiana's Cajun country.

    The water now pouring through the Morganza Spillway could affect about 25,000 people and 11,000 structures, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Vickie Frantz reported on Saturday.

    Record flooding has not been totally averted south of the Morganza Spillway. The location has just shifted to the Atchafalaya River, where water from the swollen Mississippi River is being diverted into.

    Morgan City, La., a community of 12,000, is bracing for a record crest of 11.0 feet on Wednesday, May 25.

    AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Gina Cherundolo reports that once the flood waters pass Morgan City and enter the Atchafalaya Bay, marine life will be threatened.

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