Army Corps Battles Rising Mississippi From Memphis To New Orleans

Waging war against historic flooding in eight Midwestern and Southern states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway north of New Orleans on Monday in an effort to calm the rising Mississippi River.

A crowd gathered near the entrance to the Bonnet Carre spillway to watch workers use cranes to slide open the gates to the flood control system. The spillway, like another that could be opened next week, is designed to divert floodwater away from New Orleans and slow the raging river to protect the low-lying city.

Bonnet Carre is part of a system built after the devastating Mississippi River flood of 1927. While the river's highest levels may still be days away, a decision to open the second flood control structure -- the Morganza Spillway -- may not be, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

People with property that would flood if the spillway is opened should not dally, Jindal warned: "My advice to our people is not to wait, to get prepared now."

The Bonnet Carre spillway diverts water from the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico by way of Lake Pontchartrain. But opening the Morganza Spillway would flood populated areas and could put Morgan City, Louisiana, and other communities at risk.

Col. Ed Fleming, the Corps of Engineers' district commander in New Orleans, said he has requested the authority to open the Morganza Spillway. Jindal said the Louisiana National Guard had asked for at least three days, but preferably five days, to evacuate those areas before the Corps opens the gates.