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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

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