Miss. River breaks record for number of days at or above flood stage

Water levels remain extremely high for the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge (Mar. 18, 2019 )...
Water levels remain extremely high for the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge (Mar. 18, 2019 ) (Source: BRPD)(BRPD)
Updated: May. 20, 2019 at 8:02 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The City of Baton Rouge established a new record Monday with respect to the Mississippi River. May 20 marked 136 consecutive days with the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge at or above flood stage.

According to records from the National Weather Service (NWS), that breaks the record of 135 days established during the Great Flood of 1927. Keep in mind the 1927 flood was the catalyst that prompted the construction of the federal levee system for the Mississippi River. The levees for the lower Mississippi were designed to withstand another such flood, and that’s exactly what they have done.

In fact, the flood of 2019 is likely a bigger event in terms of the amount of water being managed by the Mississippi River system compared to the volume in 1927. Thanks to a complex water management system, which includes reservoirs, diversions, and detention areas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has successfully managed the 2019 flood thus far along the lower Mississippi.

(United States Geological Survey)

But managing the system has required opening the Bonnet Carré Spillway twice this year, the first time the spillway has been opened twice in one year since it was completed in 1931. While the water rose to the highest levels seen since 2011, they never achieved the levels and rates of flow that would have prompted the opening of the Morganza Spillway. That’s great fortune for a number of communities in the Atchafalaya Basin, including Morgan City, which were flooded during the 2011 opening of the Morganza.

Now, 136 days is far from the end of the current record-setting run. River forecasts from the NWS Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC) indicate we will add several weeks to the current record-setting flood duration in the capital region. The latest 28-day forecast from the LMRFC suggests the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge could still be well above the flood stage of 35 feet into late June, possibly even into July.

(National Weather Service)

Yet seepage, sand boils, and other areas of concern along the levee system have been relatively well-managed by the Corps and local cooperators (like parish governments and levee boards) thus far, especially considering the record-setting duration. As evidence, there have been fewer than half the number of “significant points” (problem spots as labeled by the Corps) along the lower Mississippi levee system for the 2019 event compared to the high water of 2011, when the river remained above flood stage for fewer than 50 days.

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