Tough Day as Memphis & Much of the Mississippi River Basin Faces Flooding

Mississippi River Stages May 2011

Disbelief. I don’t know how else to describe today but as one of utter disbelief in what’s unfolded. Here it is almost midnight and I’m tapping on my keyboard as the rain pounds the roof & windows yet again. I hear the sounds but my mind is having trouble processing them because I just can’t believe this is the weather we’ve been suffering for the past 24 hours or so. (This continues the thoughts from my previous post on the Memphis flooding.)

This afternoon, out of nowhere, the rain seemed to just stop. It felt like a gift. A gift that I was afraid to celebrate though. But like many others in the lack of rain, there was hope for a few minutes. But that didn’t last long. And next thing I knew, I wanted names! I wanted to put real faces to it! How could something as essential to life as water be tearing up so much? Not sure how it happens other than to say the forces of nature but today we have to question that too.

Memphis is My Home & Yes I Am a Fan

I spent my day working from my home office which I have to tell you is a saving grace when you are in the midst of a deluge. Leftovers were fine for lunch and the numerous conference calls went along well. I was sort of intrigued by what I’d be doing for dinner… meeting a couple of people from Tulare, California who had come to Memphis to go to the music festival this weekend. As I drove downtown toward their hotel, the rain challenged my wipers to stay up with the water.

Janie my new CA bud

But knowing I was meeting someone who was passionate about agriculture, I knew it would be worth it. That’s when I met Janie & Nancy! What a great evening we had (thanks to the folks at Spindini who even had half-price specials!) However, I have to say its a bit surreal as we were also talking about the tourist sites they had seen and Nancy regretted that Janie couldn’t tour Mud Island. The fact that one of our tourist destinations, and home to many people in the area was disappearing into the Mississippi River struck all of us as poignant. (PS – I checked the website and it says they are still open…. now I wonder whether I should go down there for a different view of the river. Yes, its crazy to think this way.)

We also talked about the Memphis barbecue legacy and how I claim Central BBQ as my local place. I could tell Nancy was trying to figure out a way to squeeze it into their itinerary but we agreed some other things may need to take precedent! We discussed the Memphis in May Barbecue Festival that draws international teams to compete in divisions for ribs, pulled pork, other barbecue too! We weren’t sure where it would be moved but it was clear that the festival would move from the river which leaves me heartsick as I still remember going down for it in high school. But this year it will be held much closer to me as it comes to the tailgating lane for the Liberty Bowl according to the announcement I read on the I Love Memphis blog when I got home. I can’t help but bemoan the loss of venue, but love that the spirit of Memphis in May moves forward — as they say — Memphis is Cooking “Come Hail or High Water.”

As I did my reading, I noticed the Commercial Appeal’s latest update included quite a bit more info. The new estimated flood level was above the 1937 levels that have been pointed to all my life as the benchmark. The heavy rain today resulted in an extra 3 foot on the forecast. And yes, the businesses along the river are closing rapidly. We have the Naval Air Station in Millington determining what their evacuation plans are — including having bags in the car ready to go if flash flooding becomes an issue. And roads are closing, as are the casinos in Tunica. All of these are things we never thought of. And we sure never thought that the Corps of Engineers, the entity so many river towns depend on for the levee system, would end up blowing up levees north of us.

Looking at Dark Tunnels, Straining to See Lights at the End

It’s the news of never ending rain, issues with the crop in the ground and levees being blown that seemed to have my Facebook feed lighting up. One of the first threads I saw was from a friend who grows rice — the most water friendly of crops! The thread includes frustration from fellow farmers, people offering sympathy and other making light-headed jokes. That’s when one friend offered the reality check of “Hard to try and make light of a bad situation. Especially when you think about how hard you’ll be praying for a shower in July.”

I went to a friend in central Missouri’s Facebook page to see something and ended up getting caught up as Chris Chinn was getting messages from friends in the Bootheel (southeast Missouri). Your heart goes out to someone who’s saying the water is coming over the levee, but it gets complicated as you have to worry about how these small towns and rural areas will need to work through this and how an explosion may impact the area I was in recently. You can hear an interview with AgWeb’s Pam Fretwell did with farmer John Morton on the topic on the AgWeb site and here in Memphis, people aren’t sure what consequence it will have but you can see the actual levee blasts unfold via video. My heart goes out to the folks in this area — both the ones I know and the ones have yet to meet.

Needless to say, at this point, nobody is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. But I see a lot of people looking. If only the rain would stop and the sun would come out for a few days. Then we could get to planting the corn, soybeans, cotton etc in fields and get more put into the backyard gardens too.

If you missed my previous post, it includes a number of links to blogs by others who are following the river levels.

About Janice Person

I'm Janice & this blog is about my passions -- photography, travel, agriculture & whatever else comes to mind. Putting all those things together is intriguing to me…. I can spend a lot of time soaking it up! It's almost always a colorful adventure!

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