Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
ARABI, La.-- Robert "Slim" Broadhad spent part of his weekend watching the Mississippi River creep up higher and higher along the levee in St. Bernard Parish. He grew up just three blocks from the river, and spent more than 40 years working on the waterway.
"I worked on it all my life and it's unpredictable," he said. "I'm scared. I ain't going to lie to you. I've got my whole family here."
The high and historic river levels are now causing the Army Corps of Engineers to open the Bonnet Carre spillway upriver from New Orleans.
"There is no doubt that the National Weather Service has predicted that this is going to be a long crest," said Col. Ed Fleming of the Army Corps of Engineers, who is overseeing the Bonnet Carre spillway opening on Monday.
The river is expected to crest in New Orleans at 19.5 feet-- two feet and half feet above flood stage. That crest is based on the opening of the Bonnet Carre, but it may not be enough to lower the river level and the flow of the river. Now, the Corps has formerly requested the opening of the Morganza spillway, just north of Baton Rouge.
"The Morganza spillway is one of the off-ramps of water on the Mississippi River," Col. Fleming said.
Yet, the opening of the Morganza brings with it a new set of complications, since it could end up flooding multiple parishes. On Saturday, the Corps released a map, which showed the potential flooding impact. Parts of western Terrebonne Parish and St. Mary Parish could end up with five feet of water. Other areas, near St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish could see up to 25 feet of water.
"The stages are historic, the flow is historic and so those triggers that we have to operate these structures are based on the flow," Col. Fleming said.
The historic flow could put added stress on levees lining the river. Workers began filling Hesco baskets with sand on Saturday, near a low part of the levee in St. Bernard Parish.
"We're taking the approach obviously that it is better to plan and not need to do other additionally than not to do anything and then having to be in a crisis mode," said St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro.
"Look, there's going to be stress on the levee as it is," Col. Fleming said. "We haven't seen this kind of water since 1927 and there's no doubt that we're going to see a lot of water. And this is why the system was built-- is to be able to protect against the flood that comes from the river."
The Corps said it is now inspecting the levees daily to make sure they hold back the river, like they were designed to do. In the meantime, a response is expected from the Mississippi River Commission within the next 48 hours, on whether or not to open the Morganza Spillway.