FLOODWATCH: Mississippi to crest at 45' early this week

Deidre Cruse

With the opening of the Morganza Spillway, the Mississippi River is expected to crest earlier and 2.5 feet lower than was expected, Iberville Emergency Preparedness Director Laurie Doiron said Sunday (May 15).

But, she said, the crest is at 45 feet on Tuesday morning (May 17), but still expected to hold for at least seven to 10 days.

As of Sunday, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers had opened four of the 125 bays at the Morganza, releasing some 40,000 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) from the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya Basin. Depending on Mississippi River conditions, the Corps plans to open as many as half the bays at Morganza. The structure was built to divert as many as 600,000 cfs.

“Flooding of the spillway will occur, and an evacuation of the area has been recommended,” Doiron said.

Local officials are keeping a close eye on low-lying areas of southern Iberville, where there could be backwater flooding, the main threat here.

Some 18 miles of La. 975 from U. S. 190 through Pointe Coupee, Iberville and St. Martin parishes will be submerged. Mississippi levees levees are holding, the director said Sunday, but both levee boards have improved areas of local levees as precautions. Both local and levee board personnel are patrolling the protective structures daily.

Vehicles and now pedestrians have been barred from the levees; law enforcement personnel will issue citations to anyone caught. Construction or digging within 1,500 feet of any levee also has been banned.

The Atchalaya Basin Levee Board sandbagged a 300-foot stretch of levee between Bayou Goula and White Castle this weekend, and has put fresh limestone on other areas, Doiron said.

The Ponchartrain Levee Board's work on about a mile of Iberville Parish levees on the east bank was expected to be completed Saturday, she said.

At. 11:30 Sunday, the National Weather Service showed the Mississippi River stage at 44.4 feet, up half a foot over the previous 24 hours.

“The Atchafalaya Spillway near Bayou Sorrel within the levee area is expected to crest at 18 fee,” Doiron reported Sunday. The present water level is at 11.3 feet. The flood elevation at Bayou Sorrel Levees is 33.9 to 34 feet. At the Bayou Sorrel Lock, five-foot plates have been welded to the top of the structure to increase the flood elevation [to] 27 feet. It was 22 feet prior to the installation of the plates, and the expected crest is at 21.5 feet.”

The parish government has posted a flood inundation map at ibervilleparish.com, as well as a map of land elevations for residents who do not have the information about their property. Property with an elevation of four feet or more is not expected to flood, the director said.

She said the current water level on the landside of Bayou Sorrel had dropped to 3.1 feet as of Sunday, down 0.1 feet from Saturday. When the level reaches six feet, the U. S. Coast Guard will initiate restrictions on the waterway.