Elevated river level adds new layer to hurricane planning

Elevated river level adds new layer to hurricane planning

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The unusually high Mississippi River level this summer theoretically could force the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway in the event of a hurricane.

The river is expected to crest in New Orleans at 15.5 feet on July 19, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service River Forecast Center. While that is still 18 inches below flood stage and several feet below the protection provided by river levees, hurricanes could be a wildcard in the mix.

"There is the potential where hurricanes could raise flows in the river where we could get to triggers on those systems," said Mike Stack, Chief of Emergency Management for the Corps New Orleans District.

Stack says the Corps would not open the spillway for the sole purpose of lowering the river as a kind of preventive measure, but instead would rely on the normal triggers.

The Corps protocol calls for opening the Bonnet Carre when the river gage at the Carrollton station reaches 17 feet.

The Mississippi normally crests in late spring and falls in early summer well before the height of hurricane season.

Hurricane surges can affect the river flow, and a higher-than-normal river adds another layer to hurricane planning.

"We don't have any of that in the forecast," Stack said.  "It's something we would have to evaluate if storms approach us."

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