Officials try to calm fears of New Orleans flooding from Mississippi River

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 12, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 11:08 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- At the river's edge at Audubon Park, Mike Janusa looked out at the Mississippi River on Thursday, anxiously watching the water level climb ever so higher every day.

"I'm worried. I'm concerned," said Janusa, a Lakeview resident. "I went through Katrina and lost everything as well, and I would hate to see that happen all over again, due to the river."

It is a flooding fear permeating in a city, which is counting on levees to protect it from the rising river.

"The city of New Orleans is safe," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, as he addressed those fears during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

However, on that same day, the Army Corps of Engineers released three maps, painting worst case scenarios for flooding from the river in Louisiana.

The first map shows what happens if the Morganza Spillway opens at 50-percent capacity. It shows a torrent of water in parishes further west of the city. In that case, metro New Orleans remains dry.

The second map shows a similar situation, this time of the Old River Control Structure is opened instead of the Morganza.

The final map, though, paints a worst case scenario for the city. If no other water diversions are opened, metro New Orleans could get flooded as deep as 25 feet in some spots.

Officials sought to quell concerns reiterating the maps are only scenarios.

"As an engineer, we're expected to look at all possible contingencies," said Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Not operating that floodway [Morganza] is one of those contingencies, but we're not planning to deviate from how we manage and operate the system."

Other contingencies officials are keeping an eye on include river traffic on a swelling Mississippi River. The Coast Guard said shipping restrictions will begin to kick in once the river reaches 17.5 feet at the Carrollton gage.

"My concerns are not only for the height of the river, but the velocity of the river," said Capt. Ed Stanton of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The river, being an unpredictable body of water, is one that officials are now hoping will stick to a projected pattern.

"We don't know what Mother Nature is going to do tonight or tomorrow," Landrieu said. "We have seen what she has done and we've seen the way this thing is progressing, so I think some of us make assumptions on it continuing in that pattern, but we shall see."

With that in mind, Landrieu said city officials will run through a planning exercise on Friday, for the worst case scenario flooding map for the metro area.

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