Mississippi River Flooding: With New Orleans Levee Pressure Increasing, Bonnet Carré spillway Opened; Louisiana Governor Declares Statewide Emergency

As the flood-swollen Mississippi River rises across the South into Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened the Bonnet Carré spillway north of New Orleans in a precautionary move to relieve potential stress on the city’s levees, which protect from catastrophic flooding.

The spillway is 28 miles north of New Orleans. Most of the city is at or below sea level, so it is protected by levee systems. New Orleans suffered deadly flooding in Hurricane Katrina when levees were breached.

The Bonnet Carré spillway was recently closed on April 11 after it was opened to protect New Orleans was flooding and this is the first time in history the spillway has been opened two times in a year. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide emergency on Friday due to flooding and heavy rains flooding that is continuing for some areas on Saturday.

The Mississippi River, due to heavy regional rainfall, has risen 6 inches in the past 24 hours, according to the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and with more rain expected through the weekend, the river is nearing dangers levels – exceeding April flooding levels which were the worst since 1973.

“These rains could elevate the Mississippi River above 17 feet with a peak as high as 17.5 feet at the Carrollton Gage,” the Corps said in a release on Frida. “In an abundance of caution the operation date is being moved forward to ensure the safe passage of this high water by limiting the elevations downriver of the spillway. Operation of the structure will relieve pressure on main levees, maintain river stages, and regulate the flow downriver from the spillway.

“This will be the 14 operation of the structure since 1937 and the first time it has been opened twice during the same high water event.”

Already, flooding inside the south end of Mississippi’s Delta region that is walled off by levees is experiencing record flooding that will prevent farmers from planting crops on hundreds of thousands of acres, according to the Associated Press. And it’s still raining across the Deep South, bringing more rain to rain-soaked states including Mississippi and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, in Texas, more than 42,000 homes and businesses remain without power due to flooding and the city of Houston is still grappling with heavy rain and flooding. Houston and parts of Harris County and nearby counties along the Gulf Coast under a flash flood watch through 7 p.m. Saturday. Parts of the Houston area received 5 inches of rain on Thursday within 90 minutes. Some schools were canceled in the Houston area on Friday.

On Saturday, the heaviest rain in Texas is south of Houston, in coastal areas including Galveston and Freeport.

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