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Corps Blows Birds Point Levee, Floodway Open


At around 10:04 p.m., Monday night, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detonated explosives in the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri, releasing water from the swollen Mississippi River into the Birds Point – New Madrid Floodway. (View video of the explosion.)

“We executed the plan, and it performed as expected,” said Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Corps’ Memphis District. “We are now moving to the next steps, which are opening the two outflow crevasses at the southern end of the floodway. We are transferring our command and control to New Madrid.”

The floodway is expected to divert 550,000 cubic feet per second from the Mississippi River and provide an estimated 3 to 4 feet of river stage lowering in the vicinity of Cairo, Ill.

The Cairo gauge was at 61.72 feet at 10 p.m., before the blast took place, and at midnight was down to 61.13 feet. At 6 a.m., Tuesday morning, the gage was at 60.6 feet.

Opening the BP-NM floodway will impact over 130,000 acres in Mississippi County, Mo., and will be devastating to farmers and agricultural businesses in and around the floodway. The floodway has not been placed in operation since the 1937 flood.

On the concern that secondary or setback levees protecting towns outside the floodway may not hold under the rush of water, Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, president of the Mississippi River Commission noted that the Corps “has continued to inspect the levees surrounding the floodway area (setback levees) and we expect them to perform as designed.” 

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