Saturday, May 14, 2011

Countdown to Opening of the Morganza Spillway (UPDATED & VIDEO ADDED)

Scroll for updates.

Here's this morning's aggregation of flood developments so far.  We're going to head to Minden for a visit with Milly Rose and I'll be offline for a few hours, but I'll still be monitoring things and do an update when we return.  Here in northwestern Louisiana, I'm safely removed from the flooding, but it doesn't hurt any less as I watch my state go under water.

CNN has some good coverage of this story: this story introduces you to the people of  Butte La Rose, which is in St. Martin Parish:

Hundreds of people packed into the Butte La Rose firehouse to learn about the flood projections from the Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Ed Fleming delivered the dire news.

"Listen to me, listen to me, OK," he said. "I'm telling you the depth of water from right here will be 15 feet."

The number stunned the crowd.  Pierre Watermeyer turned to friends and said, "It's over with, it's over with."

 Here is Ed Lavandera of CNN talking to Morgan City Mayor Tim Matte with video of the rising water.  The mayor's frustration is evident; once the Morganza spillway is opened, the water will reach his city in three days.

 Via Houma Today, consider this map of projected flood levels:

Engineer Clifford Smith of the Mississippi River Commission says the decision to open the spillway for the first time since 1973 is the right one.

The always eloquent Jim Brown has a column up about the flooding and remembers the 1927 and 1973 floods:

Randy Newman’s song, Louisiana 1927, hit home to many residents up and down the Mississippi river this week. He was singing about the 1927 flood, where more than 23,000 square miles were inundated, hundreds of people died, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. As of right now, predictions are that water levels up and down the river will exceed those reached in the 1927 disaster. And no one really knows how bad it will get.

 Farmers in the Morganza floodway zone are harvesting what they can:

They finished harvesting 700 acres of wheat Tuesday, he said, but 450 acres of recently planted rice is expected to be a loss, not to mention soybeans that might not get in the ground this year because of the high water.  There are an estimated 15,256 acres of farmland in the Morganza Spillway, plus another 2,853 in the fore bay area between the Mississippi River and spillway control structure,  according to figures from the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.  The fore bay acreage is already flooding and the rest could be covered with more than 5 feet of water if the floodway is opened as expected, a move that could come as early as Saturday night.
The spillway will begin opening shortly.  There are news conferences scheduled at 1:00 and 2:30 p.m. by the Army Corps of Engineers, reports The Advocate:

The trigger for opening the structure is when 1.5 million cubic feet per second of water is flowing by the Red River Landing. Jindal said at midday Friday that the rate was 1.423 mcf per second.

“The fact they have given this order means their engineers have told them they expect to get to that 1.5 million cubic feet per second trigger,” Jindal said.

You can watch current river levels here.

NOLA has a River Cam here.

As I said, I'll be offline for a bit, but keep an eye on The Dead Pelican for updates.  NOLA will likely cover the press conferences this afternoon.

Update  9:25 p.m.:

Two gates of the Morganza spillway are now open.  Via WAFB:

Water from the inflated Mississippi River is gushing through two floodgates of the Morganza Spillway for the first time in nearly four decades. The water is headed toward thousands of homes and farmland in the Cajun countryside, threatening to slowly submerge the land under water up to 25 feet deep.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened one bay of the Morganza Spillway Saturday afternoon and another bay later in the day, which will funnel 10,000 cubic feet per second of water from the Mississippi River from each floodgate.

It took about 15 minutes for the one 28-foot gate to be raised in the middle of the spillway. Several hours will pass before any of the water hits sparsely populated communities. The corps planned to open one or two more gates Sunday in a painstaking process that gives residents and animals a chance to get out of the way.
 More pictures here.

Video at Houma Today and at CNN.

Here is video from PBS:

Update:  I'm moving Sunday's coverage to a new post, here.


Charlene said...

In 1927 it was reported as a 100 year flood. Billions were spent on watershed projects from the Allegheny to the end of the Missisipi and now another 100 year flood greater than 1927.

Myself, I'd move to a high hill away from all creeks and rivers, but then I don't have the POV of having lived near water. Everyone is in my prayers.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Pat, we watch in sadness as thousands are affected by this historic flooding. Thank you for the updates ... we pray for all of you. ~Lynn Mitchell, Shenandoah Valley, VA