May 18 2011

A New Flood of Record on the Mississippi?

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As of noon MST on Tuesday, the flow at Vicksburg, Mississippi is over 2.22 million cubic feet per second (cfs), meaning the 2011 Mississippi flooding is close to the 1927 flood, the highest on record at 2.28 million cfs. This past Saturday, May 15, the Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza spillway for only the second time ever to try to ease the flood pressures further downstream, especially in New Orleans. News services have talked about the flooding of farmers and towns but have frequently neglected to note that the land below the spillway is a designated floodway. I don’t want to make light of the folks having to leave their homes and the massive loss of crops, but this isn’t a simple case of the Corps of Engineers saying New Orleans is more valuable, but the harsh reality of how the system was designed.

How quickly we forget that floods annually cause $50 billion (1990s average) in damage in the United States. On multiple occasions, I have been in the field and met a property owner who laughed at the potential for a flood, usually stating how it’s been years since it flooded his or her property. But floods are no joke and part of life on a river. Haven’t seen a flood in a long time? It’s only a matter of time. There are some things we can do: better hydraulic modeling (based on accurate data) leading to accurate floodplain mapping, giving the river space to do what it wants, and using levees as a last resort (instead of being the only resort!), but, ultimately, we have to recognize the sacrifice of living directly along a river. Rivers are an incredible resource and make beautiful places to live and work but don’t forget the cost.


You can make a donation to help those affected by the floods here.

1 ping

  1. » Flooding in Pennsylvania: The Broken Record of 2011 Hydraulically Inclined

    […] 2 feet! This all sounds like a broken record in a year that set the record on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, and the Souris along with above average precipitation throughout most of the West and […]

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