News Release Manager

Corps of Engineers, partners preparing for second Mississippi River crest forecast by Weather Service

Published March 26, 2018
MEMPHIS, Tenn., March 23, 2018 – The National Weather Service informed the Memphis District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) yesterday that they expect the lower Mississippi River to again rise above Phase I activation levels in the northern portion of the District by the end of March, which could cause flooding in some areas.

“Significant rainfall is forecasted for the Mississippi watershed during the next week.” Bill Frederick, National Weather Service meteorologist assigned to the Corps’ Mississippi Valley Division in Vicksburg, Mississippi, said. “A high pressure area will camp off the U.S. east coast next week blocking a strong cold front from progressing eastward. The front is forecasted to remain over the Red, Arkansas, and Ohio River valleys for several days as the high pressure area pumps an abundance of tropical moisture into the Valley. This weather pattern is similar to the one that produced heavy rains in February.”

Corps officials anticipate the need to resume floodfighting in those areas due to the weather pattern.

“Based on this forecast, we can expect to go to a Phase I activation level around March 30, and Phase II around April 5 in the Cairo (Illinois) Area,” Dave Berretta, the Corps’ Chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology in Memphis said. 

Phase I activation in that area occurs when the Cairo river gage reaches 49 feet, and Phase II takes place when the gage reaches 52 feet

During a Phase I activation, USACE personnel deploy to the field and monitor all federal flood control works including levees, flood walls and pumping stations but on a less rigorous schedule than during a Phase II activation. Additionally, they closely monitor rainfall amounts in the affected area, and National Weather Service forecasts to determine if conditions warrant further action.
During a Phase II activation, USACE personnel intensively monitor government flood risk reduction works. They also provide technical assistance, supplies and equipment to local communities and flood control organizations to supplement local and state resources engaged in floodfighting efforts. In some cases, a Phase II activation will warrant round-the-clock patrols by Corps of Engineers floodfighters.

Berretta added that other areas in southern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, and western Kentucky and Tennessee may also reach floodfight activation levels caused by this second round of high water.

Col. Mike Ellicott, commander of the Memphis District, said the Corps and its partners along the river are ready for round two of seasonal high water.

“Our highly trained and experienced floodfight personnel from the Memphis District, working with our local partners at the many levee and drainage boards that may be impacted by this event, are prepared to monitor the condition of all flood risk reduction works including levees, flood walls and pumping stations in all Areas,” he said. “The protection of life and property is always our number one priority, and we stand ready to meet whatever challenges the river may throw at us.”

Looking ahead, meteorologist Bill Frederick said, “As we move into spring, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center predicts a wetter than normal April over the Ohio Valley and a wetter than normal April through June over the entire watershed north of Memphis.  

“With this in mind, there is an above normal risk of an extended flood season over the Mississippi Valley. Future crest heights and impacts to the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys will be determined by the intensity and areal extent of future rainfall events that cannot be forecasted this far in advance,” he added.


Jim Pogue
901-828-0152 (cell)
Ken Williams

Release no. 18-008