The Army Corps of Engineers' New Orleans office has done something unprecedented: opened a historic flood structure above New Orleans for the second time in a year.
It comes as floods across the Midwest have caused billions of dollars of damage to homes, farms and other businesses. Continued rains in the Midwest and Ohio Valley, as well as floodwaters from the upper Mississippi River, are heading down the Mississippi.
In addition, storms dumped 5 to 10 inches of additional rain in parts of Louisiana and Arkansas over the weekend. That's why the New Orleans office asked the Corps' Mississippi Valley Division for authority to reopen the Bonnet Carré spillway to relieve stress on New Orleans levees. It is opened when the Mississippi flows at 1.25 million cubic feet per second.
To put that in perspective, that's fast enough to fill the Empire State Building in 30 seconds.
The water is diverted along a 6-mile course of guide levels to Lake Pontchartrain, after which it flows to the Mississippi Sound in the Gulf of Mexico.