High Water, Rising

Watching the Mississippi River flood is… I can’t even say, really. It’s terrible and yet, once you know history is being made, that the water is going to be higher than ’37, higher even than infamous ’27, it’s hard not to get almost… I don’t know. Is there a word that means “giddy with horror?”

They’re going to blow the levee on the Missouri side of the river in order to attempt to save Cairo. They said on NPR this evening that the levee is already showing signs of sand boils, places on the “dry” side where the water has seeped up under the levee and is causing the soil to get all quick-sandy. Blowing the levee will probably not alleviate suffering very far south because of how high the Ohio is.

We have to watch for a few things along with the flooding–whether levees hold, whether river walls hold, whether the river gets a mind to jump its bed (that would have long-term bizarre consequences), and, then the part that is even more interesting in a morbid way, is whether the Old River Control Structure can hold.

Anyway, here’s a map showing the maximum flow the Corps believes the flood control system can hold. And here’s a site I found that tells you what the flow in the river at Memphis is right now. Past 2,410,000 at Memphis, I believe the Corps just throws up their hands and starts praying. Memphis is at 1,720,000 right now. That number is predicted to rise.

12 thoughts on “High Water, Rising

  1. If the situation wasn’t so serious it would be really amusing to see what a flood groupie you are. We used to dream about women like that in the office.

  2. If you go back and look at the stage forecast on the website with the flows, you add 183.9 to that number to get the actual water elevation. So the forecast of 43.9 on 5/4 is an actual elevation of 227.8. Memphis is on the bluff so it’s up around 260, but west Memphis is behind the levee and is in the 210-215 range. If you can find a topo map of the area you can get a good idea of what it would cover. We have some nice ones in the office but I can’t find a good high res one online.

  3. One last…. the record high is 48.7 and flood stage is 34. It’s already to the point where it backs up the Wolf River which runs in a loop just north and east of downtown. The city has several tributaries to the Wolf which have dams on them to prevent backflow.

  4. I am weirdly a flood groupie. I think ’93 warped me psychosexually or something. Well, ’93 and the amount of old blues songs that address ’27.

    I hadn’t realized until today that the whole Old River situation was man-made. i was feeling pretty okay being on the river’s side, but now, I feel more sympathetic to the arguments to keep it how it is. I just wonder how long it will be possible to do so.

  5. Oh dear. You are getting the downstream effects of the events a week ago that left our riverbanks smelling like sewage. I can speak authoritatively because my young children played soccer on these excremental fields today.

    From our experiences 10 days ago, I understand the fascination and the horror – and the holy marriage of both – in watching the water rise.

    I hop all of you will come out of this safe and dry.

  6. Oh, I’m on the Hocking, which flows into the Ohio. I just realized my post reads like free-association without that little tidbit!

    Sungold (in Athens, Ohio, where our banks overflowed without property damage – but oooooh, that smell!)

  7. Looks like the farthest out forecast is for the flow to reach 1990 in Memphis on the 10th . Of course, the farther out the prediction, the less reliable.

    Latest measurement: stage is 43.42ft (48.7 is the record), flow is 1760.

    This is a more slow-moving event than we had in Nashville last year. More like a hurricane than a tornado. Bad stuff.

  8. Didn’t we have a conversation in a previous flood about routing the Mississipi down the Atchafalaya?

  9. I am almost positive we did, because I was on the side of letting the Mississippi go down the Atchafalaya, but I have since changed my mind upon learning that some dumbass caused that.

  10. It’s trippy to look down over the Cumberland over the last few days. On Friday last week, the water was up over the railings on the concrete pad on Riverfront Park. Yesterday the water was about at the level of the concrete pad at about 9:30 a.m., but went below that pad by 1:30 p.m.

    One can only surmise what’s happening at Cheatham and Barkley Dam right now, but I suspect that Barkley is still rising (as I thought I’d read that the Commander of the Corps for the Memphis District had ordered Barkley Dam closed, at least for a time).

    Irrespective of that, it’s still visibly apparent that river discharge is being highly managed, so much so as to see the Cumberland at LP Field dropping by a few feet in as many hours.

  11. You should read The Control of Nature by John McPhee. He’s an excellent writer, very engaging, and he explains a lot of the situation surrounding the Mississippi.

  12. Cadillac Desert is sorta the equivalent of that for the western US. Has a lot of interesting stuff about where the city of LA steals their water from.

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