Leslie Turk

Mississippi River rising

by Leslie Turk

A precaution not taken since 1997, the Bonnet Carré Spillway in St. Charles Parish will be opened at noon today to prevent what could be catastrophic flooding along the river's lower portions. Without that action, the river could have possibly crested at or above 17 feet in New Orleans. The flood stage at the Carrollton gauge in the city is 17 feet.

The Mississippi River is cresting beyond the National Weather Service’s previous predictions and even higher than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expected. Yesterday, after the weather service issued its revised flood-crest forecast because of recent heavy rains in the Arkansas, Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Valley, ferry operations near St. Francisville were shut down.

The river is now expected to crest April 21 at 42 feet in Baton Rouge and at 59.5 feet at the Red River Landing.

The Times-Picayune reported that the opening of the spillway will lower river stages in New Orleans while causing a rise in Lake Pontchartrain. Corps officials said they don't expect to open the entire spillway, and that the opening will probably last between 2 and 4 weeks.