In this map of the Birds Point-New Madrid floodway, everything in blue was underwater after the levee was blown up in 2011.
Col. Jeff Anderson with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO -
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deploying people to the Local 6 area. That's because the Mississippi River is expected to crest next week at 59 feet at the Cairo stage.
This is only 2.5 feet below 2011 flood levels, when the Corps had to blow up the Birds Point Levee. The Corps does not believe we'll reach those 2011 flood stages as long as there's no more rain in the Mississippi Basin.
A colonel with the Corps says there are four flood-fighting stages, with Stage 4 being activating the floodway, or blowing up the Birds Point Levee as in 2011. The colonel told me they're only on Stage 2, which means they're stationing their experts here to help assess the levees.
People who live in the area and farmers tell me they're taking precautions now.
Farmer Bill Feezor remembers 2011, because that's when he lost more than 600 acres of farmland from the floodway being activated. "It was terrible because it kept raining, and waves and waves of rain," he says.
Col. Jeff Anderson with the Corps says their presence in the area shouldn't make people more nervous."We expect a very low probability of ever having to activate that floodway at 59 feet," he says.
He says they are "(ensuring) there are no more weak spots, sand boils, under seepage —normal Phase 2 flood fighting."
In Phase 2, the army Corp has deployed 10 people to this area at the Birds Point Levee, but if the situation gets worse, they'll send more resources.
Anderson says in phase 2, they're only assessing and evaluating the levees. He says he doesn't believe they'll have to activate the floodway, but the Birds Point Levee was built with specific purposes.
"We built it to do what it's designed to do, and so, when you build it back, you build it with the possibility that at some point in the future you would have to again reactivate that floodway," Anderson says.
Anderson says they're still a long way from that point.
"I can't just blink my eyes and have the activation happen. There a lot of preparatory activities that have to happen, a lot of movement that has to happen," he says.
He says there's no way they would consider flooding the levee until the water level is above 60 feet.