Take a look at your bathroom sink. Besides the drain at the bottom, there should be a higher overflow hole. This is designed so you don’t leave the bathroom faucet on and flood your bathroom. America built Spillways for the same reason…. so we don’t flood what we want to protect.
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km 2) inundated up to a depth of 30 feet (9 m). Link Songs were written about the Great Flood, including a song from a couple in Kansas who recorded “When the Levee Breaks”, which was re-recorded by Led Zeppelin. The howling harmonica, despair of Robert Plant’s voice, and monotony of the drums, all speak to the devastation of a massive flood. Almost 50yrs after the song’s release, it’s still a perennial favorite in New Orleans and south Louisiana……… because we all …….. know.
Here is the original recording of the song from Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. The pics of the flood in the video are surreal.
After the flood, the Dept of Interior decided to build Spillways to try to control flood waters from excessive spring melts upstream. The Spillways worked much like the overflow hole on your bathroom sink. Massive gates would open, and relieve high water. The Bonnet Carre Spillway opens between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, so the water can escape to the Gulf of Mexico.
If you look at the picture above, look behind the weatherman’s back, close to the lake. That white area is a subdivision of New Orleans. It’s Chateau Estates, built my school chum Leslie Occhipinti’s daddy. Where the weatherman’s knees are, and a little bit to the right off screen, is the New Orleans Int’l Airport. My own subdivision was further to the right along the lake. The Bonnet Carre Spillway protects both New Orleans and alleviates floodwaters for a third of the country. It’s MASSIVE.
It takes cranes to open ONE GATE of the spillway and the opening of a Spillway is such an event, people bring their kids to see it happen.
From the air, the cranes look like ants. We all pay homage to the Corps of Engineers guys who are brave enough to stand in the middle of all that water.
The Bonnet Carre Spillway is rarely used. The Morganza Spillway has not been used since 1973 and it is upriver. Morganza Spillway was opened on May 9, 2019 – second time in my lifetime. Link When one of the Spillways is opened, it can divert 1.5 million cubic feet of water per second. For comparison, it would fill up the Superdome in 50 seconds.
Opening the Morganza Spillway will flood the Bayous of the Atchafalaya Basin. It’s serious. I remember when it was opened in 1973. It was the year we moved to New Orleans. I was 10yrs old. Our Louisiana history class toured the spillways, both Morganza and the Bonnet Carre. At 10 yrs old, as a little girl from the suburbs of Chicago, I read stories about the waterworks required for Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or the Roman Aqueducts…. and Dad was part of the team for massive projects like the St. Louis Arch, John Hancock Bldg, Sear’s Tower (I was there when Dad helped lay the cornerstone). I grew up around big building projects. Heck, our family was transferred to New Orleans for his work on One Shell Square and the Superdome…. but the Spillways are massive….. like something out of a movie….. an alien world…… like looking at Hoover Dam and standing on the ground in front of it.
The size of it is mind-boggling.
I had never seen anything like it.
As I grew up, local high schools and fraternities would hold large gatherings, field days, outdoor concerts, in the expansive acreage on the dry side of the Spillways. We used to take horses there and picnic all the time. You could touch the massive gates and the backdrop was foreboding. The Corp claims 400K visitors a year. Link The space is perfect for a large gathering and stretches for a few miles miles between the Mississippi River levees and the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
Yeah, the Great Flood of 1927 is probably the reason there are still 2500 engineers located at the Corps of Engineers facility in Vicksburg. Today, we refer to it as Construction “Wonderland”. Gunner’s girlfriend is a geo-engineer working on her masters, and interning there this summer.
Growing up in the area, we always knew, when it came time to open a Spillway, it was an emergency, and the country was in trouble. There was a sense of urgency across all classes and races – we’re all subject to the wrath of Mother Nature and HER river. Besides local press announcing the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, I could hear the horns, from miles away at our house. It’s the kind of sound which creeps down your spine — like the first time you hear a tornado siren… and it goes on for what seems like hours.
My extended family lived around the Quad Cities, both sides of the Mississippi in Illinois and Iowa. Therefore, I could empathize easily. Today, in this forum, we hear from Dep and Nebraska Filly and we feel their pain. Guys like our own Rayzorbak are on the front line, with the Corps of Engineers. God Bless’em. Our country is in trouble and it’s time to help. Open the gates.
It’s worthwhile to note, before the Spillways were built, seasons of large floods would deposit millions of tons of silt into the Atchafalaya basin, creating new land. After the Spillways were built, controlling the river, we had “enormous problems” with the Gulf Of Mexico and sea water encroaching and eroding the land of the Atchafalaya. Saltwater tides are relentless. Think of the area as millions of acres which act like a filter, a permeable barrier between freshwater and saltwater, which teams with wildlife. Losing land was a big problem….. about 10 square miles a year.
As a schoolkid, we would join scientists in the summer who were analyzing the erosion (read as playing with the alligators/pelicans/turtles) which was ALLEGEDLY “caused” by the Corps of Engineers controlling the river instead of allowing a river delta to develop naturally. Today, those same scientists, now funded by “green groups” are complaining about opening the Spillways because the sudden infusion of freshwater destroys oyster beds, kills dolphins and loggerhead turtles. Yes, great local publicity for the three dolphins who have washed ashore during this emergency. Now, they want the Spillways closed. These are the people who are focused on the problem in their own backyard, instead of a MUCH larger problem for the entire country.
Can’t please a climate activist or a politician.
The politicians and the climate scientists were VERY upset about it…… but they never talked about the alternative……… like the Great Flood of 1927. No context. No historical perspective.
They forget the history of the land, the people, and disrespect local lore. Stories from SEVEN states of death and destruction. THEY think we’re stupid….. but we remember the stories of our grandparents.
See this picture above? The building with the Coca-Cola sign painted on the side? I’ve been in that building. The Bidenharn Family of Vicksburg were the first to bottle Coca-Cola. The building sits high, in the midst of a thriving downtown. No one could ever imagine it flooding…… but it did.
The Spillways were built for emergencies. We’re the choke point for a third of the country. We understand our responsibility. Let the water flow.