As Tropical Storm Barry approaches, concerns grow about Mississippi River flooding

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TEXAS (KXAN) — Hurricane Katrina brought flooding from the ocean and now Tropical Storm Barry may bring flooding from the Mississippi River, a first for New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people according to a National Hurricane Center report. The rise in the ocean from the hurricane overtopped the city’s levees, but Katrina did not flood the Mississippi River.

According to Dr. Jeff Masters with Weather Underground, Katrina caused the Mississippi River to rise 13 feet in New Orleans. However, the river was only 3 feet deep before the storm arrived, so it stayed contained within the lowest river levees, which stand about 20 feet tall.

The problem with Tropical Storm Barry is that there is a pre-existing flood on the Mississippi due to months of historic rain in the Midwest. The United States also just recorded its wettest 12 months on record.

As Barry approaches Louisiana, the river in New Orleans is starting at 16 feet deep, which is the highest it got during Katrina. It is also estimated that Barry’s winds will force water up the river from the Gulf of Mexico, potentially raising the level several feet higher.

Dr. Masters says complicated physics are at play such as the fact that the river floodwaters flowing out may not allow as much storm surge in. Also, some of the lowest levees are in neighborhoods like the lower ninth ward which was devastated by Katrina.

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