Monday, May 9, 2011

Keeping An Eye on the Mighty Mississippi

If you have been following the news, you know that the Mississippi River is higher than it has been in decades, due to heavy rain and snowmelt in the upper reaches of its watershed. This has already caused flooding along the upper Mississippi and its tributaries. As all this water flows downstream toward Louisiana, the downriver portions are getting more and more swollen. The river is expected to crest in Baton Rouge on May 22, and in New Orleans on May 23.

To prevent the river from breaking or spilling over levees, the Army Corps of Engineers has diverted some of the flow into other areas. The Bonnet Carré Spillway, just upriver from New Orleans, was opened on Monday, May 9, to divert water from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain. Also on Monday, the Corps of Engineers put in a request to open the Morganza Spillway, upriver of Baton Rouge. This would divert water from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya River, resulting in widespread flooding along the Atchafalaya's course. The Corps has released an inundation map showing expected flood levels in this area. As of Monday evening, officials have not decided whether to open the Morganza, but if they do, it could happen as early as Thursday, May 12.

If it is opened, the worst flooding is expected to occur in parishes around the spillway, especially West Feliciana and St. Martin. However, flood waters of up to five feet are expected across much of Terrebonne Parish. This is serious, but not as serious as it sounds, because most of the land area of Terrebonne Parish consists of low-lying, unpopulated wetlands. Most populated areas are higher, and should not see this much flooding, if any. Also, the water will rise slowly, over a span of several days. Still, officials are urging parish residents to prepare for flooding, especially in communities in the western part of the parish, such as Gibson, Donner, and Chacahoula.

Parish residents are strongly encouraged to start planning now, in case they need to evacuate or take measures to protect their property. All residents should check to see if their houses and businesses are less than five feet above sea level. Anyone with property below this level should take measures to protect it. The Houma Courier reports that residents can get sandbags at the following locations:
  • Gibson Fire, 110 Merry Moss St.
  • East Gibson Fire, 5218 N. Bayou Black Drive.
  • Devon Keller Memorial Gym, 5575 Bayou Black Drive.
  • Donner-Chacahoula Fire, 1805 La. 20.
  • Bayou Black Fire, 2820 Savanne Road.
  • Schriever Fire, 1529 W. Park Ave.
All residents, even those who live above five feet, should prepare for possible disruptions associated with flooding. The links below have more information about following and preparing for this situation. Please check the Terrebonne Parish Library's website, and this blog, for more information. As we receive updates, we will post them here.

Local Resources
State Resources
Federal Resources

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