NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The Mississippi River is falling, the gates of the spillway are closing and the flood fight of 2019 is finally coming to an end. So, why did it take till August of 2019 to put an end to a river flood that actually started in December of 2018?
To understand why it happened, we must understand where the water comes from. The Mississippi River is the outlet of drainage for thirty-two states and two Canadian provinces. All of the melted snow and rainfall from this expansive area flows through the basin and passes New Orleans…eventually.
We can trace the start of this flood back to December 2018, which is when heavy rains fell over the Red River and Arkansas River basins creating a sharp but quick rise on the river. The original rise of water started right around the New Year and lasted through much of January spiking the river to a level around 15 1/2 feet.
As the river leveled out and even fell during the first half of February in New Orleans, a large rain event was also taking place in the Tennessee Valley. It would be this water that would create a secondary rise by the beginning of March creating a new spike to around 17 feet and leading to the original opening of the spillway.
The river would remain close to that 17 foot flood stage through the first half of April before another fall would happen. This fall in early April allowed the spillway to be closed.
That would not be the end of the 2019 flood as by late April a large swath of the nation’s heartland experienced significant flooding thus creating a third rise on the Mississippi. This third rise led the spillway gates to be opened for the second time in a year making 2019 the first time in the structure’s history that two openings would be required.
Now that leads us to today where the National Weather Service is saying the river should fall to 14 feet by August 8 and by August 15, the river will drop below 12 feet. The last time the river level was that low, we have to go all the way back to Christmas 2018.