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Thousands of acres may flood in Louisiana

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Widespread flooding is occurring in areas along the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and Arkansas. By Tuesday, hundreds of homes in Sand Springs, west of Tulsa, and other communities along the river had been evacuated. (May 28)
AP, AP

LAFAYETTE, La. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is meeting with Louisiana residents at risk when the Morganza Spillway opens Sunday, flooding thousands of acres of the Atchafalaya River Basin.  

The corps is preparing to divert 150,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Mississippi River starting Sunday after the river has been in flood stage for more than four months in parts of Louisiana.

About 24,000 acres are expected to be flooded as the water is diverted from the Mississippi and into the Atchafalaya. Residents and landowners in the path of the expected floods were alerted about the possibility last week, and corps officials scheduled meetings with residents to address their concerns.

St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars said the parish has been combating high water throughout most of the spring and has positioned resources to combat any potential flooding in the lower region.

“Since March 4 through this weekend, we have distributed over 120,000 bags of sand,” he said, admitting “the opening of the Morganza just makes our job a little bit more challenging.”

Most of the area expected to flood in St. Martin following the opening of the spillway is undeveloped, though it’s too early to say exactly where all the water will go, Cedars said.

The Mississippi River has been prone to flooding this spring as heavy rainfall persisted across the Midwest.

Eight states on the river have seen the longest flooding period since the “Great Flood” of 1927, per the National Weather Service. The river has been in flood stage in Baton Rouge since January as snowmelt and rainfall waters move downstream.

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Opening of the spillway is a chance to divert that water from the Mississippi River and keep it contained in the levied Atchafalaya River Basin, but that measure runs the risk of causing backwater flooding along the Atchafalaya, corps spokesperson Rickey Boyett said.

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“There are cases where you do get backwater flooding having so much water in the basin, so there is a chance that you do experience backwater basically going around the levee system, and that’s where the local parishes have taken measures,” Boyett said.

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Follow Andrew Capps on Twitter: @JAndrewCapps

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