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Mississippi Floods: Morganza Spillway Flood Gate Opened

ABC News(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- One gate along the Morganza spillway was opened Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sending gallons of water gushing through acres of rural farmland.
The single flood gate was opened in an effort to divert some of the water from the rising Mississippi River and spare big cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans from the devastation that flood waters can bring. There are some 125 gates that make up the spillway, and officials say at least two more gates could be opened by Sunday. Authorities say they expect the flood gates to stay open for up to three weeks.

If the gates remained closed and the levees along the Mississippi failed, Baton Rouge and New Orleans could both be flooded -- leaving a disaster worse than Katrina.

Inspectors are making daily checks of the levees that surround New Orleans.

"All indications are that the levees that have been inspected on a regular basis for some time, they're all holding and we are expecting them to do so," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Other low-lying areas are not faring as well. The Mississippi River has been breaking high-water records that have stood since the 1920s and '30s.

President Obama is expected to meet with families affected by flooding along the river when he travels to Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. Friday, Republicans on the House Appropriations panel awarded $850 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) for disaster payments.

The Coast Guard also is likely to close the river to barge traffic next week, costing the U.S. economy $295 million a day. It's just the latest in a costly year of extreme weather disasters.

The massive Mississippi floods -- a seven-state, 560-mile liquid trail -- are adding to the nation's laundry list of expensive destruction. Already, there have been five separate billion-dollar storms and floods this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio 

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