Lower Mississippi River stages above normal

VICKSBURG, Mississippi - Protecting people, infrastructure, commerce, agriculture and energy are always at the forefront of what we do at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division (MVD).

As 2018 nears closure and the MVD begins planning for 2019, we remain vigilant in monitoring flood stages in the Mississippi River valley. Because of the current higher-than-average river stages, the lower valley will be more susceptible to large rain events throughout the winter. Residents with a vested interest in the Mississippi River valley are asked to monitor river stages over the next three to four months.

"The MVD team's number one priority is to protect the people within the Mississippi River valley," said Maj. Gen. Richard Kaiser, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division. "Pro-active communication is key to being prepared and ready. Our goal is to make communities aware that stages are high, so they can plan early in the event we have a spring high-water, flood event."

The Mississippi River has peaked at Cairo, Illinois, from above normal precipitation in late October and early November and has begun to recede. Only light rain and snow is predicted over the entire Mississippi watershed from now through Thanksgiving. This peak of 40 feet at Cairo is 2 feet higher than the previous record for this date which was set in 1972.

As the high water moves through the system, river stages will remain well above normal for this time of year. The crest will reach New Orleans on November 23 at a stage that is 2 feet higher than the previous maximum stage set the same day in 1986. New Orleans will remain above 12 feet through the first week of December. Phase 1 flood fight operations begin at New Orleans above 11 feet.

"Although we have peaked at Cairo from recent heavy rains and the river will begin a downward trend, stages will remain up above normal through the end of the year," Joey Windham, MVD's chief of the watershed division, said. "Therefore, we will remain vulnerable to large rain events moving through the valley.

Mississippi Valley Division's Watershed Division is responsible for providing day-to-day oversight and coordination of the Mississippi River's flow and watershed. Hydrologists and hydraulic engineers from MVD's six districts, St. Paul District, Rock Island District, St. Louis District, Memphis District, Vicksburg District and New Orleans District, keep track of river stages in real-time using satellite links to gages. In addition, they coordinate closely with multiple organizations, including the National Weather Service's official forecast, to provide a picture of current and expected river conditions.

"We work together as a regional team to fight floods," said Kaiser. "Coordination and collaboration with federal and state agencies, our sister Corps' divisions, and with local communities, is always extremely important to the success of a flood fight when necessitated."

The Mississippi River & Tributaries (MR&T) project, the comprehensive flood control project on the lower Mississippi River, has provided unprecedented protection during four severe floods in the past decade.

Flood control is necessary to achieve energy, economic, food and job security. The MR&T has prevented more than $1.27 trillion in flood damages since 1928, or $80 for every one dollar invested.

The MR&T project consists of four major features: a levee system that includes 3,787 miles of levees and floodwalls; four floodways, including Bonnet Carré, Morganza, Birds Point-New Madrid and the Atchafalaya; channel improvement and stabilization; and tributary basin improvements.

The Mississippi River drainage basin is the world's third largest watershed and is home to the largest inland waterway navigation system with more than 12,000 miles of commercially navigable channels.

In coordination with the NWS, the Corps will continue to monitor river stages to ensure the safety and well-being of local citizens.


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