Monday, May 16, 2011

Louisiana Flood Forces Families to move and Threatens Ruin

The National Weather Service had forecast the Mississippi would be passing Baton Rouge at a rate of 1.62 million cubic feet per second on May 22, according to Colonel Ed Fleming, commander of the corps’s New Orleans office. The levees in Baton Rouge are designed to withstand 1.5 million cubic feet, he said.

The extra water is going through the Morganza into the Atchafalaya basin to spare the state capital and New Orleans, raising the specter of historic flooding in Cajun country during the next 10 days, said the weather service.

Some 2,500 people and 2,000 structures lie within the spillway and another 22,500 and 11,000 buildings are vulnerable to the rising water, according to Jindal’s office.

About an hour’s drive north of Melville, under normal conditions, the Mississippi River splits. About 70 percent of its flow stays in its channel, while 30 percent meanders down the Atchafalaya, said Jeff Graschel, service coordination hydrologist for the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, Louisiana.

As the Mississippi in Louisiana rose, so did the Atchafalaya. After the corps opened the Morganza on May 14, the National Weather Service forecast the Atchafalaya may rise to near record levels, breaking them in some places.

So far this year, the Mississippi and its tributaries have flooded nearly 2.5 million acres inArkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to state and farm industry sources.

By Brian K. Sullivan