8:15am

Thu May 19, 2011
The Two-Way

New Flood Gates Open In Louisiana, River Cresting In Vicksburg, Mississippi

The U.S, Army Corps of Engineers has opened a 17th bay at the Morganza Spillway, just north Baton Rouge, Louisiana and an estimated 114,000 cubic feet of water per second is pouring through the structure. There are 125 bays on the Spillway, built in 1954 to divert Mississippi River flooding into the nearby Atchafalaya Basin and take the pressure off cities downstream, like New Orleans.

The massive water is pushing a massive amount of debris along with it, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. It's not just trees or cars or building debris: a Louisiana environmental group worries about leaks in treatment tanks for oil refineries and chemical plants. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade fears toxic material could flow into residential areas, now abandoned as floodwaters threaten people in the low-lying river basin.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest today in Vicksburg, Mississippi at a record peak: 57.1 feet. The National Weather Service says it will probably stay there through Saturday morning, according to CNN.

NPR's Greg Allen is in Louisiana, where he stood atop the Morganza spillway when it opened and watched flooding surge into pastureland. He says even with the flood gates opened, there's so much water pressing against other levees along the river that crews are on the lookout for "sand boils". These occur when muddy water bubbles up through an earthen dam, suggesting some of the material may be giving way to the powerful water. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.