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Entries in Mississippi River (17)

Tuesday
Aug212012

Drought Affecting Mississippi River Levels and Traffic

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Experts who watch the Mississippi River say they haven’t seen it this low since the 1940s.

These days, the river, which sometimes resembles a slow-motion interstate highway for barge traffic, has narrowed to one lane -- where the water is the deepest.

Outside Memphis, Tenn., crews raced to remove a car from the river.  It had been quietly sitting at the bottom for years but as the water level went down, it was suddenly blocking traffic.

River traffic was backed up for 11 miles Tuesday night as vessels waited for a stretch of the river to be reopened.

Officials say the Mississippi River’s water levels have gone down dramatically -- from Illinois to Louisiana -- because of drought conditions over the last several months.

Like a wreck on the road, a barge that was stuck in the mud blocked traffic as nearly 100 boats and barges waited to move.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it was dredging the river to keep water at least nine feet deep -- any less and authorities said they would be forced to close the river.

Frank Segree, captain of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dredge Hurley, said there had been some “close calls” with ships hitting the river’s bottom.

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The Mississippi is the nation’s artery of commerce, where more than 500 tons of grain, coal and other goods are moved every year.

More than 400,000 U.S. jobs depend on the flow of river traffic, and each day that traffic on the river stops, the U.S. economy loses $300 million.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

US Coast Guard Reopens 15-Mile Stretch of Mississippi River

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- The U.S. Coast Guard reopened on Tuesday a 15-mile section of the Mississippi River, north of New Orleans, that had been closed to prevent damage from flooding.

The portion was closed Sunday night "after reports of sand erosion near flood protection structures were originally thought to have been caused by vessel wakes," the Coast Guard said in a statement.  However, an underground pipe, not river traffic, now appears to be the culprit.

The Coast Guard will closely monitor any new traffic across the reopened section.  Passing will be limited to one vessel at a time, and ships must stay towards the center of the navigation channel, traveling at the slowest and safest speed possible.  Vessels will also be required to check in with the Coast Guard and get its permission before pass through the river.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May162011

Mississippi River Flooding: More Floodgates Opened at Morganza Spillway

Scott Olson/Getty Images(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- The Army Corps of Engineers opened two additional gates at the Mississippi River's Morganza Spillway Monday, unleashing a wall of water which is now flowing into the spillway at a rate greater than that of Niagara Falls -- more than 100,000 cubic feet per second.

At that rate it would take just over an hour and a half to cover the entire island of Manhattan in a foot of water. So far only 11 of the 125 gates have been opened and the Corps plans to open more as the river rises.

The Corps began flooding the spillway on Saturday, opening the floodgates for the first time in 40 years. The goal is to divert the record-high waters of the Mississippi away from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, choosing to risk smaller communities in an attempt to avert disaster in the most populous cities.

The Mississippi River crest is not expected to arrive at the Morganza spillway for at least a week and mandatory evacuations are already underway in many places. Neighborhoods in the water's path have turned to ghost towns with sheriff's deputies and members of the National Guard going door to door telling residents to pack up and get out.

President Obama met privately Monday with families and local officials affected by the flooding in Memphis. He heard their stories and praised their resilience.

Following the meeting, he delivered a commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School where he spoke of the response to the series of natural disasters that have hit the country this spring.

"The success of our economy will depend on your skills, but the success of our community will depend on your ability to follow the Golden Rule -- to treat others as you would like to be treated," he said. "We've seen how important this is even in the past few weeks, as communities in Memphis and all across the South have banded together to deal with floodwaters and to help each other in the aftermath of terrible tornadoes."

Once the water hits it could be as long as three months before it goes down. In Mississippi, 4,000 people are already waterlogged and the river is supposed to crest in Vicksburg, Miss., on Thursday. For those in Louisiana, all they can do is work and wait.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May162011

Louisianans in Low-Lying Areas Brace for the Worst from Floods

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- To save Louisiana’s largest cities, some of the smallest ones will have to suffer.

By late Sunday night, the Army Corps of Engineers had opened nine flood gates at Louisiana's Morganza Spillway in a last-ditch attempt to relieve pressure on levees caused by the rapidly-rising waters of the Mississippi River.  The decision means New Orleans and Baton Rouge will be spared massive flooding.

However, it's estimated that thousands of homes in Louisiana's lowlands and millions of acres of farmlands will be submerged.

Residents living in Krotz Springs, Melville and other down river communities can do little now but gather what possessions they can and evacuate.

It was the great flood of 1927 that killed 246 people and swamped 165 million acres, leaving 600,000 people homeless, that led to creation of the Corp of Engineers.

They were authorized by the government to allow flood waters to flow from some levees in order to prevent a future catastrophic flood.  Then as now, that means keeping the most populated areas dry at the expense of less populated regions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May152011

Water Works: More Spillway Flood Gates Opened

ABC News(BUTTE LAROSE, La.) -- The flood gates along the Morganza spillway continued to open Sunday, as authorities try to divert the rushing waters of the Mississippi River away from the masses.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened two more flood gates on Sunday, this after opening two other gates the previous day. There are a total of 125 gates along the Morganza spillway.

Flood gates are expected to remain open for up to three weeks, forcing thousands of people who reside in the path of the diverted water to have to flee their homes. The move to open the spillway gates is being undertaken with the hope of inconveniencing the few in order to save the majority. The diverted water will travel several miles through a path made up of homes and farmland.

Officials say the flood gates are being opened at a relatively slow pace for several reasons such as ensuring the diverted water doesn’t scour the spillway structure, giving wildlife a chance to escape, and allowing residents in the flood’s path more time to pack up and leave.

Experts say 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.

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 in the coming 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 News Radio

Friday
May132011

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 
Friday
May132011

Mississippi Floods: Spillway to Be Opened in Louisiana

Scott Olson/Getty Images(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- Louisiana residents are being warned Friday: The Army Corps of Engineers will open the Morganza spillway along the Mississippi River by Sunday, flooding millions of acres of rural farmland and sparing big cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"This is a historic amount of water," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

"Some people may think, 'Well, the house is not underwater yet,'" Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. "But they don't know the road is closed, may become closed. So if in doubt, people should get out. We want people to be evacuated, not have to be rescued."

As much as 25 feet of water will spill out over 100 miles, displacing 2,500 people. In addition, 22,500 people and 11,000 structures in the backwater areas could be flooded.

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.

Barbour told residents to prepare for the worst, though he said the main levee was holding along the river.

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 

Thursday
May122011

Mississippi River Floods Millions of Acres of Farmland

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- It could be weeks before all the flooding is over in the deep south.  During the interim, residents can only pray that Mississippi River flooding doesn't disrupt more lives than it already has.

Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi are hardest hit by the floods, with three million acres already swamped by water from the river and its tributaries.  The misery is being felt in particular by Arkansas farmers as they assess the damage from over a million acres of farmland currently underwater.

For now, the National Weather Service is predicting that the Mississippi will crest on or about May 21 at an estimated 64 feet. 

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is getting his state prepared for the worst of it from next Sunday through the following weekend.  In the meantime, new water level records are being set literally by the hour.

Memphis was threatened earlier in the week but didn't experience flooding as bad as expected, even as the Mississippi crested just a few inches shy of 48 feet, which is the record set in 1937.

The flooding hasn't ruined plans for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest this Saturday, which will attract visitors from all over the South.

One Memphis tourist official said that while the river looks like an ocean now, "some people have this misconception that we're floating around on life rafts."  He said the city is basically high and dry.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May112011

What's in the Mississippi Floodwaters?

Creatas/Thinkstock(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The great Mississippi River flood of 2011, cresting south of Memphis Wednesday, carries a mix of fertilizer, oil, pesticides, trash and farm runoff as it flows toward the Gulf of Mexico, say public health officials.

Some of it is nasty stuff, and officials say people are wise to be careful. They urge people not to touch the water unless they're wearing rubber boots and gloves, and wash thoroughly if they get wet.

"There could be a lot of untreated sewage coming downstream," said Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist and activist in Louisiana who has tangled with oil and chemical companies. "People need to be aware."

ABC News arranged some testing of its own, taking water samples from two places along the river to a laboratory near Memphis. E. coli and coliform -- commonly found in untreated waste water -- were 2,000 times acceptable limits. The lab did not find gasoline, oil or chemical toxins. There were trace levels of heavy metals, but no more than would be found ordinarily, the lab reported.

Subra said she would be concerned if the giant Morganza Spillway were opened upriver from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. It would protect the cities, but flood the wetlands of southern Louisiana. And it could be a health issue as people return to flooded homes to clean up.

"When in doubt, throw it out," said the Tennessee Department of Health in an advisory to people trying to clear out their homes when the water goes down. "Flood water picks up numerous contaminants from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings, including sewage and chemicals."

The state also warned that standing water provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Perhaps the largest effect: the overflow of nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico is likely to create an unusually large "dead zone" -- a giant patch of water off the Texas-Louisiana coast where fish and other marine creatures lack enough oxygen to survive. A dead zone forms there almost every July and August, but scientists said it will be bigger this year because algae, feeding on the excess fertilizer, will bloom and then die, choking off the oxygen supply.

Cities and towns in 31 states use water that flows into the Mississippi River Basin, many of them releasing treated wastewater into tributaries of the Mississippi. Engineers worried that sewage treatment plants could be overwhelmed by floodwaters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May102011

Mississippi Rising: Man-Made or Mother Nature?

Scott Olson/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- As the Mississippi River continues to rise and the threat of flooding moves south with the current, many critics of the Army Corps of Engineers are blaming man rather than Mother Nature for the high water.

"This is largely a man-made disaster -- to point it only to rainfall is naive," said H.J. Bosworth Jr., civil engineer and director of research for Levees.org. "Yes, there was lots of rainfall, but there was also lots of development. Every time you build a parking lot or a Walmart you add to the burden of the drainage system and all that drainage goes into the Mississippi River."

Bosworth says many parts of the water system including the levees were built prior to the creation of the fully developed urban areas and that this transition from soil to cement created major problems.

"If the rainfall increased in a forest the forest is going to suck up 90 percent of that rainfall. But if it happens in a urban area the pavement and roofs aren't going to suck up anything," Bosworth told ABC News.

The affect is multiplied on the mighty Mississippi because rivers in 31 states drain into it or its tributaries.

Robert Criss, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, attributes the rise in devastating floods to the continued constriction of the waterways and increased building in vulnerable areas. He says that as levees continue to be built higher it creates water that has enough power to tear through a landscape like a tsunami if the levee is breached, destroying everything in its path.

Both Criss and Bosworth agree that part of the problem is inaccurate assessments by the Corps.

"There are plenty of people living in designated 100-year flood plain areas and by government standards that's more like 10-year flood estimates," said Criss. "Every year is a 10-year flood now or worse...In terms of the Army Corps of Engineers' flood statistics I was able to show that there's not one chance in a thousand that their statistics are correct."

According to Criss, the "fraudulent statistics" encourage people to live in flood plains because based on the Corps' assessment, people receive subsidized insurance and other financial benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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