Mississippi River water levels reach “flood fight” stage


Rose Wagner

The Carrollton gauge in the Mississippi River shows water levels approaching 16 feet on Jan. 30.

Rose Wagner

Rose Wagner, Pack News

The Army Corps of Engineers has triggered a “flood fight” as water levels in the Mississippi River at the Carrollton gauge reach 16 feet- one foot below flood stage. But the Corps said these warnings are mainly a precaution.

“We are now getting into where we are reaching the peak of the high water season in New Orleans,” Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Ricky Boyett said. “It is our cue to get out on the levees, make sure everything is OK.”

The 28-day forecast from The Weather Channel predicts that the river will not reach the flood stage of 17.1 feet, but Boyett said these predictions can change depending on the frequency of rainfall in the Midwest that funnels into the Mississippi.

“Beneficially, right now, nothing in the forecast indicates that we need to operate the spillways to divert water,” Boyett said. “But we have to consider life and public safety. If we have maximized the levees, we divert water over. But, again, fortunately nothing shows we will have to operate them this year.”

However, while the current water levels may not be reason for alarm, they are still affecting businesses close to the levee.

When the river’s height hit 15 feet, the Corps suspended all underground construction by the city and local businesses within 1,500 feet of the levee.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, currently in the process of a multi-million-dollar renovation, is continuing with construction but had to halt all work that went more than three feet below ground, according to Director of Communications Rosalie Mortillaro.

“The deep excavations are for landscaping, so it’s not necessary for that work to be done at this point in the schedule, and our other construction activities are not dependent on it.​ The construction crews have been very busy working on other activities,” Mortillaro said in a statement.

The convention center will have to wait for the water to recede before completing current construction efforts.

“The reason why, is that when the water is that high, the water table under the ground is very high as well. Sub-surface work can cause seepage and integrity issues even though you are a quarter mile away (from the levee),” Boyett said.

The 28-day forecast from The Weather Channel forecasts the river to recede to 15 feet near the end of February.