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Old 05-06-2011, 09:04 AM
Keith Norrington Keith Norrington is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: On the "Beautiful Ohio" at New Albany, Indiana, opposite Louisville, Kentucky
Posts: 2,078
Default The Soggy South and a BIG River!

Just back from another enjoyable southern spring sojourn visiting friends, plantations, museums, playing historic pipe organs and, of course, eating too much! This year saw the Grand Old South very soggy and the Mighty Mississippi getting HIGHER by the hour. My parents and I had lunch at Natchez Under-the-Hill on Tuesday at the Magnolia Grill. The angry river was creeping closer to the top of the bank and was rushing past at a rapid pace. The city has spray painted numbers on Silver Street to indicate how much will be submerged at various stages. The pseudo sidewheeler casino boat is pulled up as high as possible and they had already sandbagged around the gangplanks and were pumping water off the lowest point of the street.

For those who remember when Under-the-Hill included restaurants such as Cock-of-the-Walk (now up on Canal Street in the old railroad depot) Natchez Landing Ltd, and The Wharfmaster, those buildings are no more. Because they want to quickly build a temporary wall to protect the historic buildings, crews with two bulldozers were demolishing those abandoned structures and depositing the rubble into dump trucks. It was announced early in the week that the casino would close on Sunday, but that has now been moved up. Silver Street has been made two way with the Biglane end of it (access behind Rosalie) closed. As of last night, Natchez police are now asking that nobody go down there unless you have official business. One of the staff at the Magnolia Grill tearfully told us that she lives over in Vidalia and had to wade from her home that morning to get to her car. Other than the Under-the Hill area, Natchez enjoys the safety of her perch high on the bluffs, but low lying Vidalia (opposite Natchez on the Louisiana side of the river) is bracing for the flood by augmenting their levee with the construction of a temporary levee of plywood and sandbags. Vidalia Dock and Storage has moved everything out and the owner said she expects to lose their building.

No visit was made to Deer Park, Loozeyanna this year, as the cutoff area where the old Str. MAMIE S. BARRETT is located (17 miles downriver) was already well under water. My friend, Maria Greer, who lives over there said her family is fearful and busy with flood preparations, but she hopes to have her brother take her out in his boat later to get pictures of the derelict old steamboat. With the hull of the MAMIE tissue paper thin and some misguided soul having removed much of the foam from her, it's anybody's guess as to how long she will float and if the two thin lines on her will hold. Everywhere you go the talk is about the "BIG WATER" and officials keep telling residents to be prepared but not to panic. Easier said than done when you see that river on a rampage and know it's getting higher before your eyes. Still, the indomitable spirit of people who love living on the river, even at floodtime, is apparent. As usual, smiles and true southern hospitality abound -- and I heard laughter and someone twanging a guitar singing "River Stay Away from My Door" as I walked by the Under-the-Hill Saloon!

At the Grand Gulf Historical Park near Port Gibson (between Vicksburg and Natchez) they have removed all of the Civil War, steamboat, other artifacts and exhibits from the museum as they expect the building to be flooded. As with the 1973 flood, another serious concern is the amount of snakes and other critters that have been found going up into downtown Vicksburg and other places as they seek high and dry ground!

The Mississippi at Natchez today is well above 53 feet, some 8 feet above flood stage, with a revised forecast of 64 feet by May 22nd. Officials predict that the Lower Mississippi will remain at flood stage well into July. The Ohio is still slightly above flood stage here at Louisville but slowly falling. Driving up through the Evansville area last evening, there are still many areas flooded and the roads which approach the bridges at Henderson have the Ohio lapping at them with hundreds of acres under water. It was sad to see numerous homes and big farms with the houses and barns surrounded by flood water.

Will post some pictures later after I've unpacked. Meanwhile, for all of us who love and respect the river, and those who live and work upon it, there's not a lot we can do at the moment but pray for the safety and well being of all concerned. May God be with them every one.
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