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More Floodgates Opened at Morganza Spillway

Water overruns a house near the levee, causing the family inside to leave.-Photo by Trevor James

With the Mississippi River rising, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened four more gates today at the Morganza Spillway, relieving water pressure and easing the flood risk in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The extra gates mean 15 of the 125 gates of the western side of Pointe Coupee Parish spillway are now open, allowing 102,000 cubic feet of water per second to spill down the Atchafalaya River.

Authorities already opened all 330 gates of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which is almost directly opposite on the east of the river below Baton Rouge. The current flow of water at Bonnet Carre is 316,000 cubic feet per second.

Further south, the New Orleans area of the river crested today at 17 feet, right at flood stage,  and in Simmesport, La., the water is projected to crest at 45.5 feet on Friday, May 20, said Rachel Rodi, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers. Flood stage there is 47 feet.

“We have been managing the flow in New Orleans and making sure it doesn’t go above 17 feet,’’ Rodi said.

Also today, the Coast Guard closed a 15-mile section of the Natchez-Adams County Port, a major shipping port on the Mississippi River, in an effort to reduce the force from rising floodwaters, but has reopened certain sections.

Rodi said the Army Corps of Engineers will monitor the gates to determine whether to open more gates along different parts of the river. Authorities will try other ways to block water, including using sandbags and temporary containment walls called Hesco baskets. They may also sink a barge in St. Mary’s Parish to stem water flow.

Parishes are bracing for flooding. More than 3,000 residents have been evacuated from the spillway area, though no one has requested to stay in shelters, according to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office.

In Pointe Coupee and St. Landry parishes, inmates and sheriff’s deputies filled and used more than 25,000 sandbags over the past week, said Capt. Steven Jude of Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“We are not out of the woods yet as far as our levee systems go, but at this time they are holding up strong and keeping us dry,” he said.

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