Atchafalaya River to crest at 6 feet
MORGAN CITY, La. —Hydrologists at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell say the Atchafalaya River is expected to crest at 6 feet here early next week.
That forecast could increase by a foot if the Morganza Spillway is opened as is being considered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take pressure off of New Orleans, St. Mary Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Duval Arthur said.
“Really, that’s not going to impact us. It could make us have a bumper crawfish season but that’s about all,” Arthur said.
Jeff Graschel, hydrologist at the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell said the forecast high is seen on average every three years.
“We’re still trying to get the river to crest around Arkansas City. It usually takes four to six days until it reaches down to Morgan City” once that happens, Graschel said.
Heavy rainfall in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana over last month is the cause of the river level rise, Graschel said.
While the crest is above the official flood level of 4 feet, the point at which the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City leaves its banks, it is not high enough to cause major problems on either side of the river.
Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi said the river is measuring 5.58 and steady today.
Boats at the Front Street city dock have been notified to vacate by Friday.
The two lowest flood gates have been prepared and can close within an hour, but Grizzaffi said the city will close them at the last minute when it becomes necessary. Sills in Morgan City are between 6 and 11 feet.
G&J Land and Marine moved all of its containers to the protected side of the wall, the mayor said.
In Berwick, Mayor Louis Ratcliff said “We’re OK. We wouldn’t be closing any gates until it reaches approximately 7 feet. We will continue to monitor the weekly updates from the corps and if that changes, we’ll take the appropriate steps.”
As the Mississippi River rises, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Wednesday in preparation of crests in the state that are predicted to be well above flood stage.
“Our parish will definitely be one of those (under the state of emergency). We shouldn’t be impacted,” Arthur said.
The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings along the length of the river from Arkansas City, Ark., south to Baton Rouge, including at Natchez and Vicksburg, Miss., according to forecaster Danielle Manning.
“The impact is still well within the levees at Baton Rouge,” she noted.
As of Wednesday, the river at Baton Rouge was at 34.9 feet, with flood stage set at 35, she said. “It’s expected to crest near 36 feet on May 19. Below Baton Rouge is not expected to reach flood stage.”
Manning said its gauge at Red River Landing in Pointe Coupee Parish has already surpassed the 48-foot flood stage. “It’s at 52.1 currently,” she said. “On the 19th, it’s expected to hit 52.5 feet.”
The declaration says the state anticipates that assistance may be needed for parishes within the designated emergency area “in their preparations and response to this developing threat.”
The declaration goes through June 14, unless terminated sooner.