In a historic action designed to minimize the risk of catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun opening the Morganza Floodway to divert water from the rain-swollen Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya basin.
The second-ever opening of the nearly 60-year-old structure 186 miles upriver of New Orleans began at 3 p.m. sharp, when a crane lifted a gate covering one of the spillway structure’s 125 bays, releasing a gusher of about 10,000 cubic feet of water per second into the floodway. A live video feed of the procedure is being streamed online by the corps.
More of the 28-foot-wide bays will be opened in the coming days to gradually increase the flow rate to about 125,000 cubic feet per second, corps officials said.
About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures are in harm’s way, as up to 25 feet of flooding is expected in a 3,000 square-mile area of Cajun country stretching from Melville to Morgan City.