The ongoing flooding along the Mississippi River is the worst the region has seen in recent memory--all three of the river's three major spillways are open at the same time for the first time ever, diverting flood waters from New Orleans and one of America's major fuel refining corridors. Other areas aren't so lucky; water flowing from Louisiana's Morganza spillway (one of the big three) is flooding the Atchafalaya River basin, displacing some 4,000 people. Scenes of inundated towns, rooftops peeking above the water line, are playing out from the upper Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
But while the 2011 floods are the worst in years, for many places they're not the worst in that many years. The Big Muddy is topping its banks and barriers more frequently and with greater consequences than flood models tend to predict. There are several reasons for that depending on who you ask, but regardless of whether it’s global warming, bad flood modeling, or simple statistical anomaly, one thing is abundantly clear: the mighty Mississippi wants out of the path that humans have determined for it, and it is increasingly finding ways to escape.