Tough choices are never easy to make when people’s lives and properties are at stake. Yesterday the choice had to be made at the point when the Mississippi River reached a flow rate of 1.5 million cubic feet per second. At stake were New Orleans, the Super Dome, Baton Rouge, even Pistol Pete’s Palace and LSU Stadium.
New Orleans could never have survived the flood bearing down on them; twenty feet of water would have poured over the levees creating a worse disaster than Hurricane Katrina. When gates at the Morganza spillway were initially opened only 10,000 cubic feet per second flowed past, but that level may rise to 125,000 cubic feet per second before the danger is past.
Some towns such as such as Krotz Springs are facing mandatory evacuation, in other areas people are left to their own decisions. As prison labor is being used to fill sandbags along the Mississippi river, local officials are doing everything they can to save lives and property.
The events taking place along the Mississippi River are breaking roughly 90 years of records, not since the 20’s has the river basin seen this type of flooding. Only once in ’37 were these floodgates opened; even then less were used.
In ’27 there was an 80-mile swath of water covering 5 states; tough choices and quick decisions will lessen that impact this time. There will still be dramatic impact however from this last decision at the Morganza spillway. Estimates vary, but 3,000 square miles of low swamp land will be beneath up to 25 feet of water. 18,000 acres of cropland and 11,000 buildings could be flooded. The time frame will likely be three weeks.
For the time being a flood of epic proportion is barreling south into the Atchafalaya Basin and towards Morgan City. Morgan City has raised their levies by some 24 feet since the ’73 flood and will likely escape serious damage. Their 12,000 residents are fortunate indeed, but perhaps 25,000 others won’t be. What worries me most is perhaps as many as 5,000 Cajuns living as they have for hundreds of years in the Atchafalaya Basin. Their lives will be changed forever.
Remember them in your prayers tonight.