April 29, 2011 in Nation/World

South braces for rising Mississippi

Cain Burdeau Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – A surge of water not seen since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is forecast in coming days to test the enormous levees lining the Mississippi River on its course through the Deep South, adding another element of danger to a region already raked by deadly tornadoes and thunderstorms.

Mississippi’s and Louisiana’s governors issued flood warnings Thursday and declared states of emergency. Authorities along the swollen waterway in both states are warning nearby residents to brace for the possibility of any flooding. Riverboat casinos in Mississippi are closing and levee managers are readying sand bags and supplies to fight the rising river along hundreds of levees in both states where the river crosses en route to the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’re going to do everything we can to prepare for the worst-case scenario while we still are hoping for the best case,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

Louisiana is still recovering from powerful Hurricane Katrina, which struck in August 2005 as levees broke under surging waters and more than 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded. Since 2005, the Army Corps of Engineers has spent billions of dollars repairing levees and improving the city’s flood protections, but the vast majority of that work has been focused on protecting the city from hurricane surge, not river flooding.

River flooding, fed by heavy rains across the Mississippi River valley, is already a serious problem hundreds of miles upriver, particularly in Missouri where the Army Corps of Engineers is considering whether to blow up a levee to relieve pressure on Cairo, Ill., a bottleneck where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet.

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