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Epic: Severe weather leads to record water levels and dangerous flooding conditions

On Saturday, 14 May 2011, the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the first bay of the Morganza spillway as part of an ongoing effort to alleviate the swollen Mississippi river and avoid uncontrolled flooding further downriver. Via CNN:

The plan to open the spillway will still impact human populations - including the town of Butte La Rose, Louisiana:

Opening the spillway will redirect floodwaters from the Mississippi River through the Atchafalaya River Basin, which runs between Baton Rouge and Lafayette south toward Morgan City.

There are more than 800 homes in the Butte La Rose area of St. Martins Parish, which sits right in the flood path.

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What's worse, the impact of the plan will be felt long after the waters recede:

Roy Dakka, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Center for Geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, predicted it will take weeks to months for the farmland to dry.

"Any existing crops are going to be toast," he said, citing the fields of corn, sugar cane and soybeans that will be covered with sediment. "Plus, God knows what's in the water and what gets deposited."

[...Click for more...]

On the somewhat brighter side, officials are pretty sure that there won't be any failure in the untested system of levees, which could lead to unmitigated disaster.

That's not much comfort to the people impacted by the waters released into the spillway and redirected toward their homes and property, but it is - unfortunately - the best chance that experts have to reduce and mitigate the potential for a far more catastrophic flood in larger population areas.

It's for situations and events like this that our national infrastructure needs to be shorn up, bolstered instead of cannibalized as some sort of political bargaining chip.

This year, in particular, has seen quite a bit of severe weather already, and climate change theories imply that such severity is likely to increase.

 

Comments

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standingup on May 15, 2011 - 15:10

to reconsider the placement of homes and other uses of land in the floodplains. Man has been fighting and losing this battle of trying to control where rivers can and can't go for years now.

Does it honestly make sense to continue constructing man made levees over and over again to deal with what are more or less naturally occurring events? Or at some point, do we acknowledge some things are beyond our control and if you want to live, farm or operate some type of business in these floodplains, you do so accepting the risk of placing anything in the path of a flood?

Bottom line, I don't know that national infrastructure will ever be adequate to handle flooding rivers. And when the infrastructure fails, the damage done is even greater than it would be if we would just let things occur naturally on their own.

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GreyHawk on May 15, 2011 - 17:31

 

Nature's boundaries is the single biggest lesson that "modern" civilization has forgotten. It's one that many of our "less advanced" sibling civilizations seemed to have a better handle on.

I think you're right - we need to plan, and build, accordingly; work within the parameters that nature has set, and where that may not be completely feasible, then try to work within the knowledge of potential consequences.

It's when we make the presumption that our technology can override anything that we are most often faced with the true limits of it, cutting through the prevailing community delusions of "control" with ease.

I wouldn't expect us to get any smarter, as a nation or even a group of nations, while ongoing idiocy regarding the potential impact of human 'civilization' on the environment is still in the denial mode by those who need to politicize and capitalize on unmitigated resource ravaging.

Unfortunately.

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susie dow on May 16, 2011 - 01:40

If the waters in the Mississippi River decide they like the Atchafalaya River better and don't want to go back. Yikes!

Lousiana Old River Control Structure and the Mississippi River Flood Protection

It wasn't until I read about the history that I finally understood just why there were reservations about opening the Morganza.

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