Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

NEWORLEANS-There is now a sense of urgency on the New Orleans riverfront.

The Mississippi is rising and agencies in charge of maintaining vital levees are preparing to fight a flood that has already wreaked havoc in the midwest.

Spring is usually the high water season in the south.

But, it's been nearly 40 years since the waterway that drains 41 percent of America has flowed this fast and risen to the heights we're now seeing up river.

'It's a very, very, very high alert status,' said John Barry who sits on the state board in charge of flood protection in the New Orleans area.

Barry says because of the nearby spillways that divert water from the Mississippi and the solid construction of area levees and seawalls, the metro area is prepared for a flood fight.

'This is the safest spot in the entire river because there are all those floodways that take water out of the river, both above the city and even Bohemia below the city. That limits the amount of water that goes by here.'

But, he says that doesn't mean the flood protection authority is taking anything for granted.

'If there is a breach on the main Mississippi River levee, you cannot close that breach and that water is going to continue to flow for weeks,' said Barry.

St. Bernard President Craig Taffaro says similar to a hurricane watch, he wants folks in his parish south of the city to pay attention to the rising tide and be ready to react if needed.

'We're not expecting the crest until later this month, around the 22nd of May and so we have a little time to watch and really evaluate what's happening upriver and how that will effect us here in St. Bernard or beyond,' said Tafarro.

Levee inspectors identified a low spot on a section not far from the Chalmette ferry.

Crews are expected begin building a berm for added protection against potential flooding there first thing Saturday morning.

'Just as a precautionary measure,' said Tafarro. 'We don't want it to be interpreted as there is imminent danger or the parish is in some great peril at this time. we're going to watch that.'

Local officials are taking the position that it is better to prepare for what may come, than to be in a crisis mode about two weeks from now when the river is cresting.

If you notice levees leaking or other problems with local flood control structures you are urged to call the flood protection authorities.

The east bank number is 504-238-9800.
On the west bank, call 504-340-0318.

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