Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our river levees may have just delayed, made worse, the inevitable

    Maybe building the giant levees on the Mississippi River wasn't such a good idea after all.
    The great 1927 flood is one of those things that's etched in our region's collective memory. After the misery it caused the U.S. government pitched in and built a levee system along the Mississippi. We've had 85 mostly dry years. And during that time we've developed property in flood-prone areas as if they were on high-and-dry ground.
    Now things are wet. Really wet. And if these levies don't do the job, the disaster will be far worse than if they had never been built in the first place.
    I called my old friend Ray Mosby down in Rolling Fork earlier today. Ray bought The Deer Creek Pilot from me back in 1993. He's convinced the main levy will hold but is still worried about some major flooding.
    A lot of other people are worried, too. About 1,000 area residents attended a meeting at the Sharkey County National Guard Armory today to get an update and advice from an engineer with the Levee Board. Ray said another couple of hundred were left standing out in the parking lot. To give you an idea of how large a crowd that is, Sharkey County has a population of 4,900 and neighboring Issaquena County has a population of 1,400. So out of a total population of about 6,300 people, more than 1,000 showed up for a briefing on the flood situation. I think that shows the level of concern.
    Those of us who live on high ground should be grateful. Those of you who live in potential flood areas need to be careful. The levy ought to hold, but if it doesn't it will be a disaster that will far eclipse 1927.
    I suppose some of us in the north part of the state may need to get ready for friends from the Delta to crash on the sofa and floor for a few days. But I hope it won't come to that.
    Meanwhile, now is as good a time as any to read William Alexander Percy's Lanterns on the Levee, if you haven't already.
    Good luck Valley Park, Cary, Rolling Fork, Anguilla, Hollandale, Leland, Greenville, and everywhere else flat. We are thinking of you!

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