Morganza Spillway Opened on Mississippi River in Bid to Protect Cities From Flooding

BY News Desk  May 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM EST

Engineers slowly opened a massive floodgate on the Mississippi River in Louisiana Saturday in an attempt to divert surging floodwaters from heavily populated areas in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.



The decision to open the Morganza spillway means thousands of acres of farmland and several homes in low-lying sections of Louisiana will be flooded with water. Authorities have been warning residents near the flood gates to evacuate for days. It’s estimated that some areas could be covered in as much as 25 feet of water, according to the AP.

“We’re using every flood control tool we have in the system,” Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said Saturday. It’s the first time the Morganza spillway has been opened in 38 years, but the second spillway to be opened in Louisiana in recent days.

About a week ago, engineers removed some of the Bonnet Carre spillway’s wooden barriers, sending water into Lake Ponchatrain.

It will take time before flood waters are expected to reach areas populated by homes. About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures are in the area impacted by the spillway.

The NewsHour has been tracking activity on the Mississippi River, including the details of the levee and floodgate systems:

-Mississippi River Levees, Spillways: How Do they Work?

-Mississippi Crests in Memphis, Flood Woes Head Downstream

-Flooding Hits Historic Levels, Tests Levee System

-As Mississippi Rises, Historian Discusses ‘Great Flood’ of 1927

We’ll have more on Monday’s NewsHour. Find ongoing coverage at NOLA.com and on Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s Gulf Watch page.

Video edited by Travis Daub.