Levees responding well to rising Mississippi River

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the Mississippi River rising, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on high alert.

Monday, employees with the agency checked levees in Memphis to make sure they were holding up to the extra water.

Randall Harms and Jim Pogue with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they have initiated phase one of the agency's flood plan.

That means crews work 12 hours a day every day. They check the 22 miles of levees in Memphis, looking for irregularities like boils.

Boils occur when water makes its way underneath the levees. That water then pops up on the other side.

Another thing the crews are looking for is slides.

"When the ground is saturated on the slope, and then a portion of the slop will separate and slide down the levee itself," Harms said.

Currently, all of the Memphis levees are holding up.

Harms and Pogue gave credit to lessons learned in 2011 when the Mississippi River rose to nearly 48 feet in Memphis.

After those floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed more than 120 relief wells along the river. Those relief wells help relieve pressure on the levee.

"The water flows underneath the levee--it does not erode the levee--goes into a ditch, flows down the river, and flows back down into the Mississippi River," Pogue said.

Forecasts suggest the river could reach 39 feet Friday. If that happens the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could initiate phase 2 of its response plan. In phase 2, crews will start constant, around-the-clock monitoring of the levees.

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