USM geography expert: South MS could feel some flooding impact

Dr. David Holt is an Assistant Professor of Geography at USM Gulf Park.
Dr. David Holt is an Assistant Professor of Geography at USM Gulf Park.

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - As thousands of people in the path of the swollen Mississippi River brace for the worst, the question is: Will the flooding affect South Mississippi?  A geography expert from USM said while our area may be spared from the rising waters, we could still feel an indirect impact.

Dr. David Holt has been documenting the water's movement along the Mighty Mississippi.  Holt is an Assistant Professor of Geography at USM Gulf Park.  He said so far, there's encouraging news about the diverted waters, especially for South Mississippi.

"Because of the Morganza Spillway being opened up, the water's going to be more toward the west in Louisiana. So we shouldn't be seeing direct impact from water along the coast of Mississippi," explained Holt.

Holt said that's because the water system along the Mississippi Coast drains differently. However, he said a strong loop current in the Gulf could pull the water eastward. And, if more barriers from the Bonnet Carre Spillway near New Orleans are opened, there's a chance freshwater could gush into the Gulf.

"It would take a significant amount of freshwater to change the salinity of the Gulf of Mexico," Holt said. "There are some suggestions that if the freshwater is changed, you can have enough freshwater to kill off oysters for example. You can get more freshwater that can change what kind of fish that are hanging around."

Holt said catfish farms in Mississippi could also see flooding. Other impacts include higher crawfish prices, disruptions in traffic along this major corridor, and minor erosion.

"This hopefully is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but it will happen again. I can say that. I can guarantee we will get a flood again, because that's just the way the river system works," said Holt.

Dr. Holt said the state's economy is taking a hit, because casinos along the Mississippi River had to close due to high waters. And gas prices could rise even more if oil refineries in Louisiana are affected by the flooding.

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