The Daily Review/Bill Decker
The gauge at Morgan City showed the Atchafalaya River at 6.31 feet Tuesday morning. The flood stage is 6.0 feet, and significant flooding occurs at 7.0 feet.
Early high water has officials looking at river gauges
No one is pushing the flood-panic button yet.
But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has stepped up its flood fight procedures after the Mississippi River reached 15 feet at the Carrollton gauge in New Orleans.
In Morgan City, the Atchafalaya has risen above the nominal flood stage of 6 feet. At 6 a.m. Tuesday, the river was at 6.31 feet and is forecast to stay at roughly that level into the weekend, according to the National Weather Service at Lake Charles.
“At this time the forecast does not indicate the need to operate the Bonnet Carre Spillway or Morganza Floodway Control Structure,” according to the Corps of Engineers in a news release.
The current forecast for the Atchafalaya at Morgan City is 6.5 feet, said Port of Morgan City Director Raymond “Mac” Wade at Tuesday’s St. Mary Council of Government meeting in Franklin.
The high water is earlier this year than last year at a time when the port is still trying to deal with shoaling caused by the 2018-19 flooding.
“Keep the river in your prayers tonight,” Wade said. “We don’t need another year like last year.”
The Coast Guard has issued a safety advisory for Berwick Bay and implemented emergency vessel movement controls. The controls include tow length limits.
The Coast Guard also urged caution in the Wax Lake Outlet because of currents of up to 5 knots.
The 15-foot level at the Carrollton gauge means the Corps has put Phase II flood fight plans into effect.
The New Orleans District will begin daily patrolling of levees along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to Venice.
“Increased patrols help ensure our ability to respond quickly to any problem areas that may develop along the levee system because of the elevated water levels,” the Corps said.
When the river is above 11 feet at the Carrollton Gauge all work within 1,500 feet of the levee must be suspended unless a waiver is granted by the Corps of Engineers and the local levee district. However, when the river is above 15 feet all work is suspended.
Current forecasts indicate the Atchafalaya River will remain in Phase I flood fight. The Army Corps activated Phase I flood fight procedures Jan. 9 on the Mississippi River levees and Jan. 21 on the Atchafalaya River levees.
On Monday, the Mississippi was reopened to traffic between mile markers 121 and 123 near Destrehan after a towboat collision that released toxic vapor.
The towboat RC Creppel collided Sunday morning with the towboat Cooperative Spirit.
Of the four people aboard the Creppel, one has been rescued, and the search continued for three more on Monday.
Officials said the leaking sulfuric acid vapors were contained Sunday, and the Center of Toxicology and Environmental Health, a private company, has been contracted for air monitoring, nola.com reported.