Archive for December 7th, 2011
By Kevin Pritchett
New flood fighting measures are being developed as a result of the crisis facing the United States Army Cops of Engineers at the Upper Crevasse on the Bids Point New Madrid floodway. Major General Peabody has directed an orderly shutdown of construction in the floodway
project area and the installation of a temporary flood barrier at the upper crevasse to hit the interim goal of 55′.
However, on the ground, the corps is ready to begin tomorrow carrying out the order to position the HESCO bastions atop the 51′ grade rebuilt levee to increase the protection to 55′. Beyond that, questions remain at this point, as alternative measures are being discussed by the Mississippi River Commission and USACE engineers on ways to proceed above – if necessary – 55′.
Talking today with Major Korneliussen, he clarified the manner in which the bastions would be put in place on top the levee to increase the height.
“We received directions today to install the HESCO bastions to get the levee up to 55’ (at the upper crevasse)”, said Major Korneliussen, “we had wanted to go with the clay levee, and we just don’t have the weather to do it anymore.”
After newly installed President of the Mississippi River Commission, Major General Peabody, issued the order today to orderly halt work to reach the interim 55′ but also took action to ensure protection to that grade on the all-important initial northern breach.
In addition, he also issued orders for Korneliussen to begin work on the ground ‘tomorrow’ to move the bastions into place. That method will be by using work crews to move the bastions by hand onto the top of the levee. An excavator, with a long scoop, will be ready on the levee and scoop pre-positioned sand into the containers.
In question at the moment, is which direction the corps expects to begin the process. Should they begin at the middle of the crevasse and work outwards or start at the south end and work north. Those decisions are being discussed now.
According to the Major, the levee is in firm enough shape now to drive a vehicle on it. And with the expected drying conditions over the next several days, there is hope the bastions can be in place on the entire 9,000 foot beach before the level nears 55’ on the Cairo gauge.
It will take about 10 good weather working days to get the process fully completed. That, however, has been an issue with the Corps as they worked to get the level to 51’.
“Normally, you can count on November to have only 7 days on non-working conditions effecting earth-work. . This year, it’s been the other way around. We didn’t anticipate as much rain as we have got. It’s way above average in this part of the world. It’s really just been an unbelievable amount of rain.”
“It’s a similar weather patter (to this past spring) when the jet stream shifts north and follows the Ohio River allowing the southern gulf moisture to come in. We’re watching. Just watching and reacting appropriately.”
“We don’t have any forecasts taking (it to 55’) right now. One of the problems is the river should not be this high this early in the season. It should be around 26’.”
The Cairo gauge had a 46.63 reading as of 8 p.m. Tuesday but the National Weather Service have moved the crest up to Wednesday but still forecast at 44’ and then it’s expected to begin falling slowly.
“We’re hoping for some dry weather to get some of that water out of here.”
When pressed about what would be done in the event the level does exceed 55’?
“It would be generally possible to do that (flood fight). I couldn’t say if we’re going to flood flight. Ultimately it’s going to come down to the specific forecast for that event. It’s been cautioned against (flood fighting on top of the bastions) but it’s not something we have as official policy.”
And as we’ve learned with the 2011 Flood of Record, some things don’t always operate as designed.
PRESS RELEASE from USACE received today at 4 p.m.
Corps installs temporary flood protection measures at BPNM
MEMPHIS, Tenn., DEC. 6, 2011 – Based on National Weather Service forecasts of unseasonably high river levels and more to come, Maj. Gen. John Peabody, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division, has directed an orderly shutdown of the Birds Point-New Madrid project area.
Further, he has ordered the installation of a Hesco Barrier at the upper crevasse to temporarily bring the system to a 55 ft level of protection (on Cairo gage) for the BPNM Floodway. Construction in this region usually stops between December and May due to adverse weather conditions. The Corps’ Memphis District projects construction of this interim measure will take approximately 10 good weather days to complete and work will begin in 48 hours when weather and ground conditions improve. A HESCO bastion is a large collapsible wire mesh container with heavy duty fabric liners filled with sand. The HESCO bastions and related work can be done around the clock and are not as dependent upon favorable weather conditions. “Weather conditions continue to hamper our ability to achieve our revised target of 55 feet using normal levee construction techniques,” Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Corps’ Memphis District said. “The orderly shutdown will commence using supplies and equipment that have been pre-positioned which will allow us to reach a 55-foot level of protection with temporary construction methods.” Citizens in the area are urged to stay in touch with their local authorities, and closely monitor river forecasts from the National Weather Service and additional information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They should be prepared to take whatever measures they believe are necessary to safeguard their lives and property. “The Corps’ number one priority is and remains public safety,” Col. Reichling said.
Will endeavor to talk Reichling as soon as possible…
Very interested to see this put together. Hope to post photos from the Upper Crevasse later this week…Kp
By Kevin Pritchett
High level meetings are underway at the Mississippi River Commission headquarters in Vicksburg, Ms., according to James Pogue, Chief of Memphis Public Affairs.
The USACE press release yesterday put everyone back on guard for a potential nightmare scenario setting up on the Ohio River Cairo gauge perhaps forcing the use of the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway once again.
As a result of the activation of the Birds Point New Madrid Floodway in early May, three breaches were crevassed with explosives. Two of those – the Lower and the Middle – according to Pogue, have been put back to the interim 55’ grade. Of obvious importance, however, is the Upper Crevasse that ran for approximately 9,000 foot along the levee.
According to Pogue, “99% of the upper crevasse is at 51’; 15 percent is at the interim 55’.”
The BPNMF levees stand at 62.5’ at all other parts along the main line and set back levees except the three segments designated as inflow/outflow which stood at 60.5.
I asked Pogue what sections of the upper crevasse have been put to 55’ and he instructed me to call Major Korneliussen for specifics of the construction.
I have a phone call in to the Major this morning at 10:00 a.m.; expect to speak with him this afternoon.
As for the brewing crisis, the culprits remain the same. A wet, soggy pattern running thru the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys is bringing the gauge up at Cairo – 43.6 (Tuesday, Dec. 6) with an expected crest of 44′ Thursday, Dec. 8.
However, the bad news continues. Another major rain event is in the near-term forecast and NWS models show an above average rainfall pattern expected thru the winter in the impacted sectors.
Pogue assessed the situation as fluid.
“We’re not going to let our guard down now. (USACE) will watch things carefully and be ready
to respond. We’ll be able to get the upper crevasse to 55’ using the bastions and that sort of materials to get us through winter.
“Now, we’re looking at the practicality to flood fight if it gets above 55’.”
That’s’ what the meetings today in the MRC are concerned with.
It’s also what has farmers; citizens and governments officials in Mississippi County concerned. The county was just getting back to some sense of normalcy with crops being harvested from places water stood in May.
It’s one thing to witness the original activation May 2 and all that encompassed. It’s quite another to watch it all go down again as a result of the hole left in the levee created by that blast.
Agreement had been reached that satisfied most to hit the interim mark of 55’. And, that would have been accomplished by the USACE had not inclimate weather interfered.
Mother Nature again is dealing the cards.
THIS is the USACE press release from Monday, Dec. 5
Possibility of renewed flooding in Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway area
MEMPHIS, Tenn., DEC. 5, 2011 – Based on National Weather Service forecasts of unseasonably high river levels, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advises citizens with interests in the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway that a significant risk of renewed flooding in that area exists for the near future.
According to the Weather Service, a strong La Niña weather pattern over the United States has been, and is expected to continue to bring, heavy rains weekly to the Lower Mississippi River Valley along with the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland river basins through the middle of December. The La Niña will continue to bring the likelihood of above normal precipitation through spring.
“Unfavorable weather conditions prevented us from reaching our target gage of 51 feet on the Cairo gage at the middle crevasse near Big Oak Tree State Park by Nov. 30,” Col. Vernie Reichling, commander of the Corps’ Memphis District said. “However, we did reach this level of protection on Dec. 3 and continued placement of clay material to a level of 55 feet.
“At the upper crevasse we achieved the 51-foot level of protection by Nov. 30 as targeted,” Col. Reichling continued. “Weather conditions, however, continue to hamper our ability to achieve our revised target of 55 feet using normal levee construction techniques. As such, I have directed workers to preposition supplies and equipment that will allow us to reach a 55-foot level of protection with temporary construction methods.”
Materials to be prepositioned for a temporary levee include supplies like HESCO bastions (large collapsible wire mesh containers with heavy duty fabric liners filled with sand), sand bags and plastic sheeting. These materials can be used to quickly raise the levee height. The HESCO bastions and related work can be done around the clock and would not be as dependent upon favorable weather conditions as conventional levee construction is.
Concurrently, Corps employees will also continue to raise the levee by placing clay as weather conditions permit. Recent heavy rains in the area of the Floodway have stopped this work several times in the last few weeks and slowed progress.
Citizens in the area are urged to stay in touch with their local authorities, and closely monitor river forecasts from the National Weather Service and additional information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They should be prepared to take whatever measures they believe are necessary to safeguard their lives and property.
“The Corps’ number one priority is and remains public safety,” Col. Reichling said.
In late October, Corps officials said that level of protection leaves about a 6 percent chance of a flood that would overtop the levee in any given year at the 55′ grade..
More later after my talk with the Major…