"The Project Flood Is Upon Us": Mississippi River Surge Is a 1-in-500 Year Event

The Mississippi flood happening now is a "Project Flood"—the biggest that could ever occur on the river.

Late Monday night, as we indicated that they might, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a section of levee on the Mississippi in order to protect the town of Cairo, Illinois from record floods.

The blasts, which were strong enough to register at 3.0 on the Richter scale, breached the Birds Point levee, and sent water cascading over 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland. The decision wasn't without controversy. Or law suit, for that matter. The State of Missouri took the Army Corps decision up to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.

When asked whether he would "rather see Cairo or the farmland underwater," Missouri State House Speaker Steve Tilley, told reporters,

Cairo. I've been there, trust me. Cairo...Have you been to Cairo? OK, then you know what I'm saying then.


Tim Murphy, who has been to Cairo and surrounding towns has a great piece in Mother Jones that provides some background on the socioeconomic conditions in the area, as well as its heated racial history, which helps explain why folks on the "other" side of the levee were putting their farmland ahead of their neighbors' homes.

In this Wall Street Journal video, you can see the blasts that busted the levees, and the water flowing into Missouri. It also explains why farm owners have to take a healthy bit of blame—the land they bought and farmed was always clearly marked by the Army Corps as being an emergency flood zone.


As Jeff Masters explains, levees on the Lower Mississippi River "are meant to withstand a 'Project Flood'—the type of flood the Army Corps of Engineers believes is the maximum flood that could occur on the river, equivalent to a 1-in-500 year flood." The levees were all built after the Great Flood of 1927—the deadly event that was made famous in the song When the Levee Breaks.

On Sunday night, Army Corps Major General Michael Walsh, the man who ultimately makes flood control decisions, stated (PDF) "The Project Flood is upon us. This is the flood that engineers envisioned following the 1927 flood. It is testing the system like never before."

Here are images of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and the "floodway" before and after the breach.



It was the first time in 74 years that the Army Corps blew up a levee on this stretch of the river, and by Major General Walsh's comments (PDF), you can tell it was an agonizing decision:

Everyone I have talked with—from boat operators, to labors, scientist and engineers, and truck drivers have all said the same thing—I never thought I would see the day that the river would reach these levels.

We have exceeded the record stage already at Cairo. We are on a course to break records at many points as the crest moves through the system. Sometimes people celebrate with "records"—but not this time. Making this decision is not easy or hard—it's simply grave—because the decision leads to loss of property and livelihood—either in a floodway—or in an area that was not designed to flood.


The destruction of the levee immediately lowered water levels by about a foot and half in Cairo, but only slowed the rise of the Mississippi River below the breach. It's already setting all-time records in the 70-mile stretch below Cairo. Over the next two weeks, this massive surge will snake its way down the rest of the Lower Mississippi, and the National Weather Service is predicting record or near-record flood levels in towns all the way down through Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Army Corps is already discussing "opening up more floodways," or blasting other levees to ease the main surge.

In some regards, a long, slow disaster like this is easier to manage—there probably (hopefully) won't be any deaths, as towns are already being evacuated and there's plenty of advance warning. Contrast that with the horrible tornado outbreak last week, and this "flood" feels like less of an emergency. Let's just hope that the slow, lazy nature of this disaster doesn't make it something that's overlooked by the rest of us.

Top photo: screenshot from Wall Street Journal video; Satellite images from NASA Earth Observatory

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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