Blasting the Bird's Point levees on the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois was necessary to save the town of Cairo and large areas of Memphis, Tennessee downstream. Record high water levels at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers were dropped to safer levels by blowing up the levees and opening up the flood plain. Detailed hydrometorological forecasts show that Cairo appears to have been saved. However, major transportation corridors are forecast to be cut off in Memphis and areas further downstream down to northern Louisiana will be threatened by the potential for severe flooding through the month of May. The Army Corps of Engineers apparently plans to open the large spillway that flows into lake Pontchartrain to protect New Orleans. River forecasts for New Orleans indicate that New Orleans will not flood unless additional rains raise water levels.
High groundwater pressure continues to threaten Cairo. A sand boil will grow by erosion into an uncontrollable flood if it's unplugged. The Army Corps continues patrolling for and plugging boils. However, the flood crest will continue to push downstream towards New Orleans through the month of May. The possibility of more rain adds uncertainty to downstream forecasts.
Blasting the levees will inundate 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland in addition to the 100,000 acres already flooded in the area. So many crops will be lost to flooding that food prices will be driven up. The damage is projected by local authorities to come to hundreds of millions of dollars.
"In that spillway, all the structures are going to be gone," said Blake Hurst, head of the Missouri Farm Bureau. "Roads, bridges, center point irrigation pivots are all going down the river."
The corps dynamited the levee to relieve mounting pressure on the flood control systems guarding more populated areas upriver, particularly Cairo, Ill. But the decision exacted a heavy price: Some early estimates put the damage at $300 million. Hurst says he believes that's low, predicting the crop damage alone to be around the $100 million mark.
Hurst and others stress that, while the explosion flooded 130,000 acres in the spillway near the levee, an additional 100,000 in the area are underwater from the 20 inches of rain that have fallen in the past two weeks.
On Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) upped the ante on those river forecasts, calling for the potential for all-time record river stages at Red River Landing (65.5 ft) and Baton Rouge (47.5 ft) on or about May 21st. Down river at Donaldsonville, the forecast for 36.0 ft would effectively tie the record stage for that location. In addition, the Atchafalaya at Morgan City is projected to rise to 9.5 ft, which would be the second highest stage ever for that site.
|This liveblog group is being set up for the community to come together to report and raise awareness of this extreme flood event. Images are welcome if they convey important content. Given the nature of this developing event discussion needs to be kept informative and supportive. Residents affected by these floods need to follow official sources. These liveblogs are intended to assist in awareness, planning and support. Because increasing incidence of severe flooding is a predicted consequence of climate change caused by human emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere, one of the purposes of this group is to raise awareness of the destructive consequences of climate change.
Human caused global warming didn't make the floods. It made them worse.
Detailed information with images, graphics and videos, follows the break.