Historically high water levels in the Mississippi and Ohio river systems prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to intentionally blow up levees and flood 130,000 acres in Missouri. Now “the most high risk population” is in Memphis, according to Corps of Engineers Col. Vernie Reichling, though the worst danger zone is expected to move further south in the days to come.
“This water that we’re seeing coming by is moving 2 million cubic feet per second,” said Reichling of the situation on Sunday outside Memphis. “To use an analogy, in one second that water would fill up a football field 44 feet deep.”
By daybreak Sunday, the Mississippi had already reached 47.3 feet.
The river is expected to crest at 48 feet — just shy of the 48.7-foot record set in 1937 — shortly after midnight Tuesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Borghoff.
Officials have looked at the possibility of the river reaching 52 feet, “solely to fall on the high side of caution,” Nations said.
An explosion lights up the night sky as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blows an 11,000-foot hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Mo. on Monday. The breach lowered the flood levels at Cairo, Illinois. Credit: Getty Images, NOAA
UPDATE: MAY 9, 2011
Forecasters say the Mississippi River could crest late Monday at Memphis, hours sooner than previously predicted, but the mayor says the city’s ready for it. (May 9)
Forecasters are pushing up their prediction of when the Mississippi River could crest at Memphis. Now, the river could reach 48 feet as early as Monday night. (May 9)