NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says New Orleans will be protected as the Mississippi River is forecast to reach 19 feet Saturday, one foot lower than previously forecast.
The latest forecast from the National Weather Service predicts that the Mississippi River will spike at 19 feet at 1 p.m. Saturday due to storm surge from Potential Tropical Storm Barry. That is two feet above the official flood stage.
The river was expected to spike to 20 feet after severe thunderstorms drenched Southeast Louisiana with up to 8 inches of rain in some areas Wednesday morning.
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Ricky Boyette said the New Orleans levees are built to defend against river levels of 20-25 feet. With the river estimated to reach 19 feet at the Carrollton Gauge, that could mean trouble for the parts of New Orleans with lower levees.
"We’ll be working with the local officials in the levee districts as well as our engineering and modeling team to evaluate the system, what will occur with a 20 ft elevation in the river and if there’s any actions need to be taken to prevent that water from going over the levee," Boyette said.
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A southeasterly flow from the tropical system will send higher levels of water up the Mississippi River. In most years, the river is usually below 10 feet at this point of the season and storm surge from tropical weather is not an issue.
The last time the river reached 20 feet was in February 1950, when the Carrollton Gauge topped out at 19.98 feet. That level was caused by normal spring floods and not tropical weather.
There is still a question about if the high water levels will cause damage to New Orleans' levees during the 6 hours that the water level will spike. The river is expected to return back to below flood stage once the winds change direction.
The highest recorded level for the Mississippi River at New Orleans occurred on April 25, 1922, when the river reached 21.27 feet.
Stay with Eyewitness News on WWL-TV and WWLTV.com for more on this developing story.