Mississippi River at record levels for December

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 13, 2004

Vicksburg High School senior Laura Katherine Johnston navigates the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Motor Vessel Benyaurd down the Yazoo Diversion Canal enroute to the Mississippi River Friday morning along with the help of driver Randy Young during a field trip that wrapped up a semester’s study of the river. The Corps of Engineers treated the 33 students enrolled in Ed Wong’s Mississippi River Studies class for a ride down the river, including tours of the Motor Vessel Benyaurd’s engine room, lunch on the barge and receiving a honorary pilot’s liscense for taking control of the steering. The class teaches the students about the geology of the river, the physical characteristics, historic floods and how the Corps deals with it. The Corps has helped to sponsor the class for 30 years and allows them to use the class as a recruiting tool for future engineers by allowing the students to come out and see exactly what the Corps does. (Brian Loden The Vicksburg Post)

[12/11/04] The rising water level on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg will be two feet higher and a day later, river forecasters said.

In addition, the flow on the river will exceed the highest December flow on record since 1902 and likely will be the highest for this time ever, said an official with the Vicksburg District Corps of Engineers.

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Earlier this week, the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La., predicted the Mississippi would crest at 39 feet on the Vicksburg gauge on Dec. 20.

That prediction has been revised and the level raised, said Kai Ross, a forecaster with the forecast center.

He said the new predicted water level here is now 41 feet and it will come a day later, on Dec. 21. Flood stage at Vicksburg is 43 feet.

“The rain that has fallen in the last week or so has caused more (water) to come out of some of the dams,” Ross said.

At the time the previous crest was predicted, Ross said they had taken into account the rainfall that hit the Vicksburg area last weekend and then moved across northern Alabama and Tennessee and then into the Ohio River basin. Rivers in Alabama and Tennessee feed into the Ohio and, eventually, into the Mississippi.

Since then, another strong storm front moved out of the Gulf of Mexico and brought additional heavy rain to the South and the Ohio River and its tributaries.

The rain that fell in the Mississippi Delta will raise the predicted crest for the sump area behind the Steele Bayou and Little Sunflower River control structures, said Wayland Hill of the Vicksburg District Hydraulics Division. Instead of cresting at about 87 feet mean sea level, the crest will be about 89.5 feet on Dec. 21.

Hill said the new water levels will mean additional flooding will occur. Instead of about 14,000 acres along the Mississippi River north and south of Vicksburg, Hill said the area between the levees will see about 17,000 to 18,000 acres under water. In the South Delta sump, he said the flooded area will increase from about 202,000 acres to about 267,000 acres.

In addition to being well above the normal level of about 16 feet on the local gauge, Hill said the predicted high water will produce the highest flow past Vicksburg since 1902 and maybe even before that. The flow at the 41-foot crest will be about 1.3 million cubic feet per second compared to an estimated flow in 1902 of about 700,000 cubic feet per second. At the normal 16-foot water level, the discharge past Vicksburg is about 480,000 cubic feet per second.

“But you have to remember it was a different river in 1902,” Hill said.

The cutoffs, dredging, channel improvements and revetments that produce the Mississippi River of today were not even thought about until after the 1927 flood.

He also said the water level will the second highest recorded in December.

The record is 41.8 feet in 1919.