Will Mississippi River Flooding Reach New Orleans?

Jul 7, 2014

Water levels in the Mississippi River shot up in the past few weeks after a series of strong storms in the Midwest. Flooding has closed roads and bridges and swamped thousands of acres of farmland in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

But, will the flood waters affect us here in Louisiana?

Jeff Graschel, a Mississippi River-watcher with the National Weather Service, says that scenario is unlikely.

Most of the flooding right now is concentrated in the upper part of the river, Graschel says, above the split at Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio River becomes a tributary of the Mississippi. He says the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas shouldn’t have much to worry about, because the river is much wider by the time it reaches the area.

“We kind of look at it like an interstate system,” Graschel says. “The Mississippi River is like a three-lane highway. The Ohio River is almost like a six-or-seven-lane highway. So when you get down to the New Orleans area, we’re looking at a nine-lane interstate system. Our channel capacity can easily handle the amount of water coming from the St. Louis area right now."

Graschel says there could be trouble if there is heavy rainfall in the Ohio River Valley in the next few weeks — but so far that’s not in the forecast.