Forecasters expect the Mississippi River to rise above 40 feet next week, although it doesn't pose the same threat as in 2011, when emergency measures were taken to divert the flow of water barreling downstream.
The National Weather Service predicts the water will crest Friday morning at 41 feet at the Baton Rouge gauge, the highest since January 2016, when it reached 43 feet. In May of 2011, the Mississippi reached a staggering 45 feet. The levee at Baton Rouge is 47 feet.
The military has already begun preparations. The Army Corps of Engineers entered Phase 1 of their flood fight procedures earlier this month. They are now upgrading to Phase 2 level, which requires daily levee inspections and a halt on certain construction activity nearby, such as running water lines and pile driving, said public affairs officer Ricky Boyett. Phase 2 activities are expected to last several weeks.
Rising waters brought on by a weekend deluge across the Midwest are expected to send the Mis…
The Corps held a training exercise at the Bonnet Carré Spillway Thursday. However, Boyett does not expect it or the Morganza Spillway to be opened during next week's high water.
Engineers pay more attention to the flow rate when determining whether to open the spillways. While a lot of water is coming down the Mississippi, it's a slow churn.
That's because it's coming from farther away, National Weather Service meteorologist Gavin Phillips said.
Local weather hasn't been especially wet. Some of the water is flowing in from Missouri, but much is from the Ohio valley, so it has a long way to travel before it reaches Baton Rouge, during which time it slows down, Phillips said.
The Weather Service expects the river to be in flood stage through the first week of June.
The Coast Guard is keeping an eye on the water and staying in touch with state and local authorities. The Guard has asked boaters to be extremely careful on the water.
"We are closely monitoring the conditions of the river 24-hours a day, and have been actively engaged to respond to incidents that may occur," wrote Lt. Comdr. Howard K. Vacco.
"We ask that our recreational and commercial waterway users maintain extra vigilance while navigating on the river, and help keep our waterway safe during this challenging high river period."
It's uncommon for the Mississippi to top 40 feet at Baton Rouge.
The river crest in 2011 was close to record-setting. At just over 45 feet, it was fourth all-time since record-keeping began in 1874. The highest crest was 47.28 feet on May 15, 1927.
Editor's note: This article was changed on May 24, 2017, to note that the river crested above 40 feet in January 2016 as well as in May 2011.