While the St. Louis area deals with major flooding, predictions for Delta areas farther south are not as dire.
“We’re looking at what will probably be the fourth-highest crest of the Mississippi River in this part of the country,” said Jim Pogue, with the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on Wednesday (Dec. 30) morning. “It will follow 1927, 1937 and 2011.
“Right now, we’re not expecting any protected areas to be flooded. The (flood control) system will work as it’s designed. The low-lying unprotected areas, of course, will see a lot of water. Coming this early in the year, though, means the flooding won’t have as drastic an effect on farmers as it would later in the spring.”
What are the chances of the Corps opening the Birds Point - New Madrid floodway in the Missouri bootheel?
“The floodway in the bootheel is the only one we work with out of Memphis,” said Pogue. “We don’t anticipate having to operate that based on the current forecast. But we’re watching things very closely and have taken the initial steps so that if things change, we’ll be ready to work with the floodway.”
Some 40 Corps inspectors are on the ground in four northern flood fight areas under the Memphis office, said Pogue. “They’re up there for 12 hours a day inspecting levees, flood walls, looking for sand boils and those sorts of things. I’m sure they’ve found sand boils – those are inevitable when the water rises like this – and are taking care of them.”
In a Dec. 29 statement, the Corps said as the Mississippi River “crest moves south, major flood stages are forecasted for Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans. These major flood stages also create the potential for activating the Bonnet Carre’ spillway and the Morganza floodway…
“The overall flood control system, also known as the Mississippi River and Tributaries project prevented more than $230 billion in flood damages during the Great Flood of 2011, and over its history -- $639 billion, a 44.5 to 1 return rate, and that figure will increase following this year’s flood event.
“The Mississippi Valley Division is responsible for water resources engineering solutions in a 370,000 square-mile area, extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and encompassing portions of 12 states.”
With floodwaters swirling, what is the short-term weather forecast looking like?
“Basically, given the poor weather conditions we’ve seen in the state and upstream in portions of Oklahoma and Missouri for the past several days, weather conditions will be significantly better for about the next week,” said Jeff Hood, National Weather Service meteorologist based in Little Rock. “Weather conditions aren’t going to exacerbate any flooding across the state.
“However, we’re still dealing with all the water on the ground and in area reservoirs. We’ll simply have to wait out the effects of the recent heavy rains.”
As for a longer-term prediction, “for the most part it appears we won’t have too much significant warm or cold air coming through,” from Jan. 6 through Jan. 13. “Even so, it looks like rain chances will come back into the forecast. The question is whether the rain systems are slow-moving like those that have caused us problems. But we should be spared any major rains for the next couple of weeks – the risks for heavy rains and continued flooding appear to be west of Arkansas.”
Hood said based on calls to the NWS office “people are obviously worried about the flooding. There are two parts of the state most at risk for the next couple of weeks. One is the Arkansas River Basin from Fort Smith all the way down to Pendleton on the lower part of the river. Most of the forecast points, if they aren’t already dealing with major flooding, will likely experience it.”
In the eastern part of the state along the White River, given how much rain fell across north-central Arkansas and the upper basin, “we’re starting to see moderate to occasional major flood stages. Basically, all rivers in the state haven’t been spared. It’s a widespread event across many states.”
One complicating factor that will have an impact on the eastern portions of the Arkansas River and White River will be the rise of the Mississippi River.
“St. Louis and surrounding areas are already dealing with major flooding,” said Hood. “Below St. Louis, a wide stretch of the river between Cairo, Illinois, and Memphis are dealing with near-record flooding.
“As that water travels downstream, the major river systems in Arkansas will have trouble evacuating water that’s already accumulated. That means areas of the southeastern Arkansas will have a prolonged rise in flood levels.”