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How did the Mississippi River get so high this Spring

Posted: 5:20 PM, May 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-03 17:30:21-04

As we prepare for the opening of the Morganza Spillway, here is a review of the last few months to explain why there is so much water in the Mississippi River this year.

Here is a look at the river levels for the Mississippi at Baton Rouge since the start of 2019.

River Levels of the Mississippi at Baton Rouge

As you can see, the Mississippi River has been at flood stage at Baton Rouge since early January, which is nearly 150 straight days.

The first little bump in the levels came in January when most of the midsection of the country received above average rainfall for the month.

Then you see the huge spike in mid-February.

That spike was the result of a historically wet month across the Tennessee Valley where 10-20 inches of rain fell on the entire state of Tennessee.

Heavy rains hammer Tennessee in February

As that water flowed into the Mississippi levels got so high in Baton Rouge that the Army Corps of Engineers had to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway on February 27th.

The floodgates remained opened for 44 days helping to drop the river levels slightly by early April.

As our water levels were starting to come down more heavy rains hammered South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa causing terrible flooding in that part of the country.

Heavy rains and flooding slam Nebraska and Iowa

A month later those flood waters made their way down to Louisiana bumping our river levels again.

With this second rise in the Mississippi, the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre for a second time on May 10th.

Then just a couple weeks ago rounds of heavy rains dropped a foot of water over eastern Oklahoma leading to historic flooding near Tulsa.

Those flood waters are now working there way down the Arkansas River and are expected to raise the already swollen Mississippi.

So with that water heading our way and the river levels at the Morganza, just a couple of feet from overflowing the CORPS is opening the spillway to prevent the catastrophic effects which would happen if the Mississippi River would overtop the flood gates and the old River Control Structure.

Thus, with the slow release of water through the spillway the CORPS hope this will prevent the Mississippi from rising any more to levels that they can’t control.