Storm surge and strong winds stopped the flow of the Mississippi River on Sunday near New Orleans and actually caused the flow to reverse – something the United States Geological Survey said is “extremely uncommon.”
“I remember, offhand, that there was some flow reversal of the Mississippi River during Hurricane Katrina, but it is extremely uncommon,” Scott Perrien, a supervising hydrologist with the USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told CNN.
Perrien noted that the river level rose about 7 feet due to the storm surge pushing up the river at the USGS gauge, located in Belle Chasse, about 20 miles south of New Orleans in southeastern Louisiana.
“During that time, the flow of the river slowed from about 2 feet per second down to about half a foot per second in the other direction,” Perrien said.
Perrien pointed out that the gauge does not measure the flow of the entire river, so it is possible that the deeper portions of the river did not reverse flow directions.
“The river is feeling the effects of the storm over a large area,” Perrien said, “all the way up to Baton Rouge the river has risen 1.5 feet in the past 12 hours as the surge pushes up the river. And the water level will likely rise more in the coming hours here in Baton Rouge.”