Q&A on the News

Q: With all the floods in the lower Mississippi, I wondered if the federal government had closed the big dams on its tributaries (Allegheny, Monongahela, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky rivers) to reduce the magnitude of the flood?

— Roger Willby, Marietta

A: All of the reservoirs on the Ohio, Upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers held back water to help keep the crest on the lower Mississippi River as low as possible, Bob Anderson, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman based in Vicksburg, Miss., told Q&A on the News. Once these reservoirs reached capacity, the releases were timed to minimize worsening the flood.

Q: It has been noted that the flood level of the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., fell short of the flood of 1927. Assuming that the levees in place today were not built in 1927, would the river be higher this year than the flood of 1927?

— Harold Rosenbaum, Norcross

A: The river would not be higher without levees – it would lower and it would spread out for about 80 miles from east to west in the Delta and inundate more than 25,000 miles from Cape Girardeau, Mo., to the Gulf of Mexico, Bob Anderson, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman based in Vicksburg, Miss., told Q&A on the News. Also, if there were no levees today, Anderson wrote in an email that we would have much fewer people living near the river and most of the river's major cities like St. Paul, Minn., St. Louis, Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans because the flooding would be catastrophic each time the river came out of its banks. Most people could not live near the river if roads were closed, schools damaged, homes flooded and businesses destroyed, Anderson wrote.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).