Movie:Levee breach

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Information Page: Levee breach

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Key Attributes

Domain: terrestrial, hydrology
Keywords: artificial levee breach
Keywords: flood control
Model name: Animation model name
Name: -, HeartlandFlood
Where: Birds Point/New Madrid, Missouri
When: May 2011


Short Description

Grade level: Middle (6-8), High (9-12), Under graduate (13-16), Graduate / Professional

Statement: aerial view of breach in river levee

Abstract: Footage of the rapid outflow of water through the breach in the Mississippi River levee at Birds Point-New Madrid. On May 3, 2011 the US Army Corps of Engineers blasted a breach into the levee protecting the Bird's Point-New Madrid floodway, flooding 530 km2 of crops and farmland in Mississippi County, Missouri. The breach was induced to save Cairo, IL (population ~3000) at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River and the rest of the levee system, from floodwaters. The breach displaced around 200 residents of Missouri's Mississippi and New Madrid counties, at the same time the city of Cairo was evacuated for safety, but remained unharmed.

Theory

The Mississippi River floods in May 2011 are among the largest and most damaging US floods in the past century, rivaling major floods in 1927 and 1993. The river water stage recorded point to exceedance of the 500-year flood recurrence interval. Flood waters were derived from two storm systems associated with devastating tornadoes, which dumped record rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed in April 2011.

In addition, snowmelt added to the high water levels and by the beginning of May the water stages were record-high. Areas along the Mississippi experiencing flooding include the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

On May 3, 2011 the US Army Corps of Engineers blasted a breach into the levee protecting the Bird's Point-New Madrid floodway, flooding 530 km2 of crops and farmland in Mississippi County, Missouri. The breach was induced to save Cairo, IL (population ~3000) at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi River and the rest of the levee system, from floodwaters. The breach displaced around 200 residents of Missouri's Mississippi and New Madrid counties, at the same time the city of Cairo was evacuated for safety, but remained unharmed.

Birds Point is part of the New Madrid Floodway Project. Prompted by the Great Flood of 1927 the US Army Corps of Engineers installed an earthen levee to protect nearby farmland. The section of the Levee at Birds Point was engineered so that when the water reached 61 feet (19 m) on the nearby Cairo flood gauge, the river would over-top the levee and erode it away. This would allow the river to fill the 133,000 acres (54,000 ha) floodway and relieve pressure on the flood control systems in place at nearby Cairo, Illinois and Hickman, Kentucky. This whole area has been engineered to allow for intentional flooding but has only been used twice.

The levee at Birds Point locally has a "fuse-plug design”; it contains 3,400 m of pipe that can be filled with liquid explosives and detonated to open the levee and activate the floodway. It was only the second time the floodway was ever activated on May 2, 2011, the earlier time being 1937. Three detonations took place in the late evening of May 2, and the following detonations on May 3.

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