Opening the Morganza spillway changed the situation for Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The National Weather Service now expects the Mississippi to crest on May 18 at 45 feet, lower and sooner than projected last week.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal held a press conference on the efforts to fight the river flooding and on the sinking of a barge in St. Mary Parish, which the governor visited. Sinking the barge was meant to reduce backflow into tributaries.
Jindal said, “The crests have been lowered modestly in a number of places in Louisiana, but there is still a significant amount of water coming our way.” He warned citizens to listen closely to local officials and to pay attention to mandatory or voluntary evacuation notices.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have opened 11 out of the 125 gates of the Morganza Spillway to allow water to flow into the spillway. The USACE opened the gates slowly so that the waters would rise slowly, allowing wildlife to escape to higher ground.
The USACE reported that the water is not rising as quickly as expected. Projections were based on data from 1973, the last time the spillway opened. Recent drought conditions allowed the ground to absorb more of the water than it did in 1973.
State troopers, National Guards and the LDWF are patrolling the spillway area keeping the roadway and shoulders from being obstructed by motorists. The Coast Guard and State Police are monitoring this area, according to the governor’s press release. It stated that "The National Guard has approximately 1,100 guardsmen mobilized for this emergency. National Guard Liaison teams are in 19 affected parishes."Mayor-President of the city of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge parish Melvin “Kip” Holden warned in a statement that East Baton Rouge should expect to see “ponding water in low areas and saturated soils within 3,000 feet of the levees over the next three weeks.” East Baton Rouge Parish and the City of Baton Rouge have a consolidated government. Holden is head of both. Flood-stage water levels are expected to remain for about two weeks following the crest.
City and parish officials will continue to monitor the projected crest with the Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service, stated Holden in a press release. He said personnel were carefully watching the levees around Baton Rouge. Holden said, “Citizens will see the City-Parish DPW stockpiling sandbags near the lowest points of the levee; as the crest moves towards Baton Rouge. And they may see additional flood protection measures based on information from the Corps.”