Corps of Engineers, partners monitor levees as Mississippi River crests at Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) employees, in cooperation with local partners and stakeholders, continue to monitor the flood risk reduction system to ensure the safety of lives and property in the region during the current flood. The forecast calls for the river to crest at 39.5 feet on the Memphis gage sometime today, 5½ feet above the National Weather Service's flood stage.
"The flood risk reduction system is working as designed and we are not seeing any problems," Col. Mike Ellicott, commander of the USACE Memphis District said. "We are working shoulder to shoulder with partners, which around here includes the City of Memphis and the St. Francis Levee District of Arkansas across the river from Memphis, to monitor the system, identify any problems and take immediate action to correct them. The Corps could not do this job alone and we are grateful for their partnership and assistance."
The Corps of Engineers is currently engaged in a Phase I floodfight in the Memphis (Tennessee), West Memphis (Arkansas) and Helena (Arkansas), and Clarksdale (Mississippi) areas. During a Phase I activation, USACE personnel and their local partners deploy to the field and monitor all federal flood control works including levees, flood walls and pumping stations. Additionally, they closely monitor rainfall amounts in the affected areas, and National Weather Service forecasts to determine if conditions warrant further action.
"The current National Weather Service forecast indicates the river will remain around 39.5 on the Memphis gage through the weekend, then begin a slow fall early next week," Dave Berretta, the Memphis District's Chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology. "Forecasters expect it to fall below the National Weather Service-defined flood stage of 34 feet around March 16," he said.
According to the National Weather Service Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, the river has crested or is cresting at Cairo, Illinois; New Madrid and Caruthersville, Missouri; Osceola, Arkansas; and Tiptonville, Tennessee.
Elsewhere in the Memphis District, the Cairo (Illinois), Missouri, Reelfoot-Obion (Kentucky and Tennessee), and Lower St. Francis and White River (Arkansas) areas remain in a Phase II floodfight status. During Phase II activation, USACE personnel and their local partners deploy larger teams and more intensively monitor government flood risk reduction works than is called for in Phase I. In some cases this level of attention calls for 24-hour patrols.
The Corps also provides technical assistance, supplies and equipment to local communities and flood control organizations to supplement local and state resources engaged in floodfighting efforts in both Phases I and II.
As of Friday morning, the Corps of Engineers has approximately 65 employees engaged in the floodfight. Roughly 40 of these are field personnel who patrol the levees and other flood works, and work with local partners. The remainder are support personnel working in the Memphis District's Emergency Operations Center and at various remote locations throughout the district.
The Memphis District's federally-funded flood risk reduction system has prevented more than $4.3 billion in flood damages and protects more than five million acres of cropland in the last decade alone.
Additional Congressional funding for maintenance and construction helps ensure the integrity and dependability of the Mississippi River and Tributaries comprehensive flood risk reduction system during emergencies like this, and provides funds for repairs to the system following flood events.