Mississippi-Tennessee flooding threatens millions

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are saying that three recent explosions at levees have helped ease the dangerously swollen Mississippi River, though the waterway continues to rise to historic levels and threatens to overrun some cities.

Emergency officials from Missouri to Mississippi scrambled Wednesday to prepare for potential flooding as the river continued to rise. Fears have prompted an emergency declaration for 920,000 residents in Memphis and surrounding Shelby County, Tennessee, where authorities blocked some suburban streets and more than 200 people evacuated to shelters.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a Mississippi River levee upstream of Cairo, Illinois, to save the town from flooding. The plan seems to have worked. Water at the point where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi has dropped 1.7 feet since the blasting, down from a record 61.72 feet, but flood fears remain farther south. With more rain on the way next week, every ingredient for major flooding is coming together at once along the Mississippi River.

Heavy snowmelts from Minnesota and North Dakota combined with three large rain events this year have triggered the rising river levels, says Bob Anderson, an Army Corps spokesman based in Vicksburg, Mississippi. While the levee breaches helped bring down water levels in some areas, relentless water pressure continued to threaten river communities in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys.

In Memphis, water levels are expected to crest at 48 feet on May 10, just shy of the 48.7-foot record set in 1937. Flash flooding is already happening along local tributaries and evacuations are under way. The flood threat is expected to continue into Mississippi and Louisiana, according to forecasts by the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.

The last big flood was in 1993 when the Mississippi and Missouri rivers broke free of their banks.

Satellite photo of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers immediately to the north of St. Louis, Missouri, during the Great Flood of 1993

Same location imaged by the Landsat program under normal conditions in September 2002

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Posted by on May 5, 2011. Filed under Environment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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4 Responses to Mississippi-Tennessee flooding threatens millions

  1. SagaciousHillbilly

    May 5, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I think it’s time to rethink where centers of population ought to occur in this country and elsewhere. With the atmospheric chaos that is happening and is only going to get worse, we need to get people out of areas where such calamity is going to be an ongoing thing. . . unfortunately, we don’t think long term in our modern society where instant gratification, next quarter profit and next election cycle are our chief concerns.

    • Holte Ender

      May 5, 2011 at 10:58 am

      I know that living in a flood plain, in a non-flood time, provides rich soil and a growing bonanza, but the drawbacks are tremendous. Like living on the Gulf Coast in an active hurricane season, dangerous.

  2. Four Dinners

    May 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Perhaps supplying those stupid enough to choose to reside near a large river, that occasionally floods, with those plastic water wings children use whilst learning to swim would be a good idea….a damn sight cheaper than sending in the US Army I would have thought…

    Just another thought…I know obesity is a problem in America so perhaps specially re-inforced lifebelts?….;-)

    …and before you start Big H I’m somewhat rotund myself!…;-)

  3. Pingback: Nashville New Homes: As floodwaters rise, “Memphis in May” rises too! « nashvillehomesblog.com