Expert worries high river levels could exacerbate hurricane season

Expert worries high river levels could exacerbate hurricane season

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As hurricane season approaches, one expert said he worries what kind of impact high water in the Mississippi River will have in an active hurricane.

Though river levels will likely be lower during the peak of the season, Alex Kolker -- a coastal sciences professor at Tulane and LSU’s Marine Consortium -- said storms still pose a threat.

High river levels this year have forced an unprecedented opening of the Bonne Carre Spillway and, likely, the Morganza.

“This river is managed for river floods and it’s managed relatively well. The one thing it’s not managed for is if you were to have a hurricane and a river flood at the same time,” Kolker said. “A high river like we have now, in late August, that would be a bigger concern.”

Kolker said when you take a look at some of the city’s most catastrophic storms, river levels didn’t play a part.

“Katrina, the river was pretty low, and that was not a flood concern during Katrina. Isaac, again, the river was almost at record lows.”

Which means even a minor hurricane could become severe, according to Kolker, but a substantial storm could prove devastating.

“During Isaac, there was about an eight-foot storm surge in the river. During Katrina, there was a 14-foot surge in the river and that could add, if you add six or eight feet of water today, we’d probably have water up to our ankles or knees right now,” he said.

While there’s not a lot one can do to prevent a hurricane while the Mississippi hovers at flood stage, Kolker said the odds are in our favor.

“Normally, climatically, statistically, they’re unlikely because we generally have our river floods in the spring and we generally have most of our hurricanes in the late fall, when the river is low.”

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