The Mississippi River is on the rise again, slightly more than a month after communities in south Louisiana were on alert for flood-stage conditions that prompted the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
This time, though, water levels are not expected to reach the levels seen in late January.
The Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center expects the river to experience a few periods of higher water because of recent rains upstream in the Midwest and Ohio River Valley.
In Baton Rouge, the river is forecast to rise to about 32 feet by the second week of March — which is below the flood stage of 35 feet, the level at which the river would top its banks and cause flooding if the levees were not there.
When the river reaches 30 feet, more frequent levee inspections begin to take place, checking for problems that must be addressed.
After the mid-March peak, river levels in Baton Rouge will fall slightly for about a week before another rise is expected to take place in the first week of April, said Jeff Graschel, a service coordination hydrologist with the forecast center.
It’s likely the river level will bump back up to about 32 feet, but it could go a little higher, depending on how much rain actually falls in areas that deposit water into the Mississippi.
“Right now, we’re not seeing anything on the degree of December and January,” Graschel said about the rising water.
In New Orleans, the Mississippi River will follow the same pattern, with a rise in water cresting about the second week of March at 12 to 13 feet, well below the 17-foot flood level. There will be a slight drop and then another increase up to about the same level or maybe a little higher, Graschel said.
Snow melt will not be a factor in the upcoming rise in river levels in Louisiana because not much snow fell this winter, and the snow that did fall has mostly melted already, Graschel said.
For the rest of the spring, there is an above-average chance of flooding conditions returning to the lower Mississippi River through May.
“We never did get a significant fall on the lower river for a significant amount of time,” Graschel said, causing the river to start off at a level that is higher than in typical years.
As for what will drive the flood conditions, he added: “It’s really going to be any rainfall we get over the next couple months.”
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