FLOODWATCH: Corps opens 11 gates at Morganza; crest now expected Wednesday

Deidre Cruse

The Mississippi River was rising more slowly Monday (May 16) now that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has opened the Morganza Spillway to relieve pressure on the levees.

By Monday, the Corps had opened 11 of the 125 bays at Morganza. Iberville Emergency Preparedness Director Laurie Doiron said the Corps is continuing to predict a Mississippi crest at 45 feet on Tuesday, but the National Weather Service had revised its estimate and was predicting a crest at Baton Rouge on Wednesday morning.

The latest reading from the Weather Service around noon Monday showed the river at 44.6 feet, up 0.2 feet in the previous 24 hours.

Water was backing up a little in the White Castle area, officials said. Residents in the Lone Star and New Camp Road areas near the town were taking advantage of the sandbags the parish is providing to residents who want them, Doiron said.

Deer, wild hogs and other animals are seeking higher ground as the Atchafalaya Spillway begins to flood with water released through  the Morganza structure, and houseboat owners were moving from the spillway into the levee-protected areas down the bayou, officials said.

As of Monday morning, the water level in the spillway near Bayou Sorrel was 11.9 feet, and is expected to crest at 18 feet, just under the level of the 1973 flood.

The landside gauge at Bayou Sorrel showed a level of 3.2 feet Monday morning. Once the water reaches 6.0 feet, the U. S. Coast Guard will begin instituting restrictions to protect property.

The Corps, anticipating the closure of the Port Allen Lock when the Mississippi reaches 45 feet, has closed the Atchafalay Basin to shipping traffic, Doiron said.

Iberville Parish Councilman Wayne M. Roy of St. Gabriel said the Ponchartrain Levee Board had sandbagged a two-mile stretch of east bank levees to protect against water big ships were pushing over the levee as they rounded a big curve in the river.