The United States Army Corps Engineers slowly open the gates of an emergency spillway along the rising Mississippi River, on Saturday, diverting floodwaters from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, yet inundating homes and farms in parts of Louisiana's populated Cajun country. About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm's way when the Morganza spillway is unlocked. Sheriffs and National Guardsmen were warning people in a door-to-door sweep through the area, and shelters were ready to accept up to 4,800 evacuees.
Louisiana’s Morganza floodway was opened today, sending torrents of brown water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya River basin, a move designed to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The spillway gates were opened as the National Weather Service forecast the river’s flow at Baton Rouge would exceed 1.62 million cubic feet per second, exceeding the 1.5 million cubic feet per second the city’s levees were designed to withstand. Within 20 minutes after the first gate was lifted, several square miles of the Atchafalaya River basin were submerged. The spillway, built in 1954 and not opened since 1973, can release 600,000 cubic feet per second of water at maximum capacity. It may send enough water to fill a football field 10 feet deep every second across the heart of what is known as Cajun country, eventually filling an area almost as large as Connecticut. The river system is Louisiana “is under tremendous pressure and it is going to be under tremendous pressure for a long time,” said Major General Michael Walsh, president of the Mississippi River Commission. - Bloomberg.WATCH: Morganza Spillway Is Opened.