The Mississippi River, its tributaries swollen by snowmelt and stormwater, is rising toward a flood level that could equal or exceed anything in its recorded history. The threat to Cairo, Illinois — just below the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers — is so grave that the US Army Corps of Engineers is about to blow up a levee just downstream at Bird’s Point, Missouri, to relieve the flooding in Cairo by deliberately inundating 140,000 acres of farms and towns. The emotional controversy that has arisen over this move obscures a real and rising threat to the economy of the United States.
But the real threat posed by this historic, gathering flood may well lie several hundred miles to the south, where the Mississippi crosses the Louisiana border. There, as the Corps well knows but dare not discuss, this historic flood threatens to overwhelm one of the frailest defenses industrial humanity has offered to preserve its profits from the immutable processes of nature. This flood has the potential to be a mortal blow to the economy of the United States, and outside the Corp of Engineers virtually no one knows why.