High river puts city on alert

by Sheila Grissett and Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune, Thursday March 20, 2008, 9:06 PM

Recent heavy rains in the Midwest, combined with the last melting winter snows, will swell the Mississippi River to an expected crest at 16.5 feet in New Orleans by April 9, high enough to place local emergency officials on guard for potential river levee problems.

The crest will be about half a foot below the point designated as official flood stage at the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans, although a combination of levees and floodwalls protects the city to 20 feet at that location.

Hydrologists with the National Weather Service's Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell warned Thursday that, although no rain is forecast in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys in the next few days, if heavy rains fall in that area during the next three weeks it could push the river even higher in New Orleans.

"Once it gets to 16 feet, we start getting a little worried," said Bob Turner, regional executive director of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority East, after briefing the authority Thursday.

At least this time, the Times-Picaune is not trivializing the threat to New Orleans. I refer to the terrible flood of 1927, which led to the policies which deal with the river, levees, and other 'protections'.

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