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Project design flood

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Title: Project design flood  
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Subject: Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, Mississippi River, 2011 Mississippi River floods, Wax Lake, United States Army Corps of Engineers
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Project design flood

Flow capacity for the Mississippi river in thousands of cfs based on the 1956 project design flood.[1]

The project design flood is a hypothetical "maximum probable" flood of the Mississippi River used by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to aid in the design and execution of flood protection in the Mississippi Valley.[1][2]

The current project design flood was developed in 1956 by the Mississippi River Commission with input from the Weather Bureau. It is based on a scenario of three rain events in the lower Mississippi Valley occurring 3 days apart: the January 1937 (increased by 10%), January 1950, and then the February 1938 rain event with its center adjusted 90 miles (140 km) to the north and rainfall pattern rotated to achieve a hypothetical worst-case flood of the tributaries of the Mississippi River. Assumptions were made based on the completion of tributary reservoirs and dams by 1960. When the Commission reviewed the plan after the 1973 Mississippi River floods, the Project Design Flood in use was determined to be "based on sound technology that was still reliable by current standards. The project design flood peak discharges remained unchanged."[1]

Once the project design flood was developed, flow rates at critical points are used to determine how high levees need to be, how deep the dredging needs to be, and the flowrates at which flood control structures need to be used.


  • 1928 project design flood 1
  • 1941 project design flood 2
  • Current project design flood 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

1928 project design flood

In response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the Flood Control Act of 1928 authorized the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T), which is implemented by the Mississippi River Commission (MRC). The MRC estimated a maximum probable flood discharge of 2,250,000 cubic feet per second (64,000 m3/s) at Cairo, Illinois that was greater than the 1927 flood but less than the 1927 flood combined with the maximum recorded discharge of the Ohio River in 1913. In a separate analysis, the U.S. Weather Bureau determined that a "maximum possible" flood would result in a discharge of 2,400,000 cubic feet per second (68,000 m3/s) based on the maximum recorded flows of the upper Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers. In a combined analysis, the higher flow rate estimate was used.

Adding the flows of the Arkansas and White Rivers, the maximum flow farther downriver at Arkansas City, Arkansas was estimated to be 2,850,000 cu ft/s (81,000 m3/s) with a flood stage of 74 feet (23 m). Adding the flows of the Yazoo and Red Rivers, the Weather Bureau estimated a flow of 3,000,000 cu ft/s (85,000 m3/s) just North of Baton Rouge at Red River Landing, Louisiana.

1941 project design flood

The Ohio River flood of 1937 caused the flood stage at Cairo to reach 59.5 feet (18.1 m) despite a flow of only 2,100,000 cu ft/s (59,000 m3/s).[1] In response, the United States Congress ordered the MR&T to review of the flood control plan. Maximum flows were changed to 2,600,000 cu ft/s (74,000 m3/s) at Cairo, 3,065,000 cu ft/s (86,800 m3/s) at Arkansas City with the White River backwater area levee overtopped, and Red River Landing unchanged at 3,000,000 cu ft/s (85,000 m3/s).

Current project design flood

The current project design flood was developed at the request of the Senate Public Works Committee in 1954.[3] The Mississippi River Commission and the Weather Bureau worked together to investigate hypothetical flood conditions. The study of a set of 35 combinations of actual storms resulted in the selection of combination called "Hypo-Flood 58A," a combination of previous storms in 1937, 1938, and 1950. The peak discharges were found to be 2,360,000 cu ft/s (67,000 m3/s) at Cairo, 2,890,000 cu ft/s (82,000 m3/s) at Arkansas City, and 3,030,000 cu ft/s (86,000 m3/s) at Red River Landing.

After the 1973 Mississippi River floods, the MRC reviewed the project design flood and found that it was still reliable based on current standards.

Project Design Flood Flow Rates
Location River Flow
100 year
Flood Stage[4]
St. Louis, Missouri Mississippi R. 150,000 4247
St. Louis Missouri R. 100,000 2832
Paducah, Kentucky Ohio R. 1,760,000 49,838
Paduca Tennessee R. 490,000 13,875
Cairo, Illinois Mississippi R. 240,000 6796 63.2 ft.
Cairo Ohio R. 2,250,000 63,713
Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway 550,000 15,574
New Madrid, Missouri Mississippi R. 1,810,000 51,253
Memphis, Tennessee Mississippi R. 2,410,000 68,244 53.9 ft
Greenville, Mississippi Mississippi R. 2,890,000 81,836
Vicksburg, Mississippi Mississippi R. 2,710,000 76,739
Natchez, Mississippi Mississippi R. 2,720,000 77,022
Old River Control Structure 620,000 17,556
Red River Landing, Louisiana Mississippi R. 2,100,000 59,465
Morganza Floodway 600,000 16,990
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mississippi R. 1,500,000 42,4755
Bonnet Carre Spillway 250,000 7079
New Orleans, Louisiana Mississippi R. 1,250,000 35,396
Atchafalaya Wax Lake Outlet 440,000 12,459
Morgan City, Louisiana Lower Atchafalaya Basin Floodway 1,060,000 30,0165

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "The Mississippi River & Tributaries Project: Designing the Project Flood", United States Army Corps of Engineers (PDF), April 2008, retrieved 2011-05-16 
  2. ^ a b "MR&T PROJECT", MISSISSIPPI RIVER & TRIBUTARIES PROJECT (PDF), U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, February 2011, retrieved 2011-05-18 
  3. ^ Wohl. Inland flood hazards: human, riparian, and aquatic communities. p. 387.  
  4. ^ "Controlling the Project Flood", The Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (PDF), 2007, retrieved 2012-01-10 
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