A Deep Dive Into the Missississippi River

Much of the Mississippi between Natchez and Venice, LA is below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. A large portion of the river from Donaldsonville to Venice is below the BOTTOM of the entrance leading to the Gulf of Mexico.

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MS River Is Backing Up

You might guess flood stages would move from north to south in the Mid-to-Lower Mississippi River as the waters travel north to south to reach the Gulf of Mexico. You’d be wrong.

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The River Stands Still

Potential energy, the energy of dropping from a height, is the main driver of MSR waters to the Gulf.

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The Levee's Gonna Break

Water now flows much faster to the Lower MS River due to changes in land use coupled with Corps of Engineers changes to the rivers. During the rainy season, water cannot get from the Lower MS River to the Gulf of Mexico as fast as it arrives from upstream. The bathtub that is the MS River from Natchez to the Gulf has been backing up since the late 1990s.

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MS River Mouth

Gravity is a fundamental law of nature.  It makes rivers flow to the sea.  If the natural flow is blocked, there are consequences. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked about 40% of the Mississippi River’s peak flow to the Gulf at Morgan City in 1964.  The delayed consequences today are unnatural floods on the Lower Mississippi. 

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Deja Vu All Over Again

On January 15, 2016, the Mississippi River at Vicksburg reached 50 feet — 7 feet above flood stage.  It was the highest January crest since 1879 when Congress put the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in charge of flood control.  A freak January flood.  It caused the Mississippi deer season to close early along the river.

It happened again this year.  On January 12-13, the river reached flood stage at Vicksburg and Greenville.  And the deer season closed early.  “Deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra said.  The river has reached flood stage in January only three times in 140 years — but twice in the last three years.

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