This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

My Photo
Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2011 High Water – Fifteen

Here is a picture of the Myette Point boat landing taken this week. The vast area covered by water is actually the parking lot. The previous picture taken while construction was going on was taken from the other end looking this way. This picture was shared to me by Larry Couvillier.
The river is at 23.3 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, holding steady for the next several days and beginning to fall by June 1, at least a little bit.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 High Water – Fourteen

Exodus from Butte La Rose. We are now somewhat established in the home of friends in Lafayette. I say somewhat not because we are somewhat welcome, far from it, but somewhat is the best we can do after leaving our house and coming to live in other people’s environment. We are very grateful, but it will take a little time to adjust.

I can’t say much about the river conditions from 25 miles away. But it is enough to know that it will not threaten our house and other buildings. When we can get back home, I will write a little about what we find there.

The picture is of the new Myette Point boat landing in St. Mary Parish under construction last fall near Franklin. The COE built the landing for water not to exceed 21 feet, I think. It is now complete and there is more than a foot of water over it. I wonder if they have flood insurance.

The river is at 23.0 feet today, cresting at 24 point something tomorrow. It will stay crested for a couple days and then gradually fall. The water that is coming around behind the protective guide levees will stay a nuisance for some undetermined time.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 High Water – Thirteen

Today is the last day we can stay here at home for some undetermined time. The mandatory evacuation notices were delivered to each house this morning by the sheriff’s personnel. I don’t think there can be more than six or seven houses still occupied now. It is strange to see so many vacant places where there is usually a bustling energy. Odd. I asked Carolyn tonight why she thought we were still here when almost everyone else has been gone for a week or more. She didn’t have an answer, except that it didn’t feel right to leave unless it was absolutely necessary. We thought we could stay until either the electricity was turned off or the water prevented access to our house. Neither of these things is the cause of our leaving. Instead, because there is part of the Butte La Rose road that is low and nearly at the same elevation as the swamp floor, that road is about to become submerged. Access to those houses along that road will become questionable soon, and because of that the whole road will be shut down, the high road where we live and the low too. It is a pity, but understandable in a way. How long we will be gone will depend on how long it takes the “back flooding” to come to a crest and then drain off so that the low portions of the road become passable again. At least that is the prediction that makes sense.

Starting to see a few snakes. Saw one water snake today, and one land snake (racer). Both were swimming. The racer’s being in the water would indicate that the habitat is becoming undesirable for it, and higher ground is being sought. Wish we could be here to see the rest of the adjustments that the fauna will be making. Those white ibises are having such a profitable time gleaning the things that come up out of the grass as the water slowly rises up the lawn. They are coming to terms with the high water in an easy way.

The water is coming up the yard more and more. Today it is filling the swale between the low hills that make up the river bank. It will cover the walkway before it is through rising. The shallow pool seems to appeal to the breeding frogs and toads. Gulf coast toads, green tree frogs and gray tree frogs lost no time in setting up territories in the pond and began calling for available females to come and enjoy the water. Little do the ladies suspect that they will be ambushed when they come within range, and little frogs will be made.

So we leave tomorrow. It is not a good feeling. But the house should be safe from the water, and hopefully the sheriff’s patrols will make sure that the property is safe from other kinds of intrusion.

The river is at 22.5 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising to 24.5 feet on the 27th, Friday. It will flatten out after that and begin to start considering a withdrawal back into its usual containment. How long that takes will determine how long we have to stay away. The Mississippi and the Ohio are falling hard all the way up, as though to admit exhaustion after such a display of strength.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Saturday, May 21, 2011

2011 High Water – Twelve

And what is the mood of the river these days? The introduction to Riverlogue suggests that the mood of the river changes as the seasons pass, and so it does. Sometimes the mood is only slightly altered, sometimes the change is dramatic, like now. Actually, I believe how we perceive the mood is irrelevant. The river doesn’t care. It has no malice toward us, or no joy for that matter. It simply is. But for itself, only for itself, there is meaning in its stages. In the summer when the water is low and warm, and moves southward in a slow and lazy way, there is the possibility of imagining an old man in a rocking chair with a cup of black coffee in his hand. Rocking very slowly on the front porch, avoiding the cat lying on the floor, nervously asleep. Perhaps there is a pipe in his mouth and a can of Prince Albert giving a permanent shape to his hip pocket. He looks contented with his world and not too prone to making rapid moves. He is resting and satisfied for the moment.

It is also possible to see him as he is now, an athlete of supreme power running far and fast, spreading wide his body to cover his world in water filled with silt and nutrients. I can imagine his mood now as joyous and vibrant. He is a builder now, laying a covering of soil onto his banks, ironically making it harder to overflow every time an overflow takes place. He pulls into his current things that are finished with their purposes for the land, old trees and other loose items – including the manmade objects that are not secured. All this he gathers and distributes to other places. Should humans chance to come too close, he can be a merciless force, pushing back at them. Merciless but without malice. Wise people will know the river’s power and avoid an encounter, others calculate the odds and take their chances, building in places they know to be at risk.

But there is something about being on intimate terms with the river seasons, both the old man and the athlete, that draws us to take those chances. We know that a close encounter will not end well for us, but we build as close to the river as we can anyway. We, like the other people who live in Butte La Rose, know this and for some period of time we get away with it. But once in a while the old man gives rise to the powerful athlete, and we have to move out of his way if we can. What we can’t move, we sacrifice to the water. This is mainly why I have such admiration for the many houseboat people who lived in the Basin all those decades ago. They knew the river as a respected neighbor, not an adversary.

Anticipating that we would have to leave our property, I made a simple gauge that could tell us something about the river indirectly. The gauge that I made and tacked to our house was supposed to tell me how our house was faring in the rising water when we couldn’t be here to see it. We could see the river level on the internet and see where that would be on the gauge, and imagine water at that level. Not as good as being here, but better than knowing nothing at all. Perhaps we won’t need this tool after all, if we are allowed to stay.

The river is at 21.7 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising about six inches a day to reach 24.5 feet by the 27th. This might cause some disruptions, and some house flooding in low areas, but nowhere near what would have happened if we would have gotten 29 feet, as first predicted. The crest is not the end of it. The athlete is running a long distance race, and the water will be with us for quite a while.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 High Water – Eleven

The day got progressively more tense. We were packing the final suitcases and other stuff to go and live with others. It was hard not to be depressed about leaving. Then things sort of turned around. In mid afternoon I got a call that informed me that the crest elevation for the river had been reduced from 27 feet to 24.5 feet. That was really good news. That meant that water would not be under the house at the highest crest. It might not even damage the electrical outlets in the shop and garage. Better and better. And then we got the call that said the mandatory evacuation was postponed, to be reevaluated in 48 hours. We were on the verge of packing the car when that news was confirmed. Better and better.

Within one hour of that news being shown on television there were people driving trucks pulling trailers full of furniture and appliances back into Butte La Rose. Amazing. It did not take us long to call two good friends this afternoon, once we knew the evacuation was postponed, and they helped take all the furniture down from the blocks. The house looks so much better. And the little 12 inch TV is back doing auxiliary work instead of being the main set in the living room. Only thing, the remote controls for the TVs were packed and sent to storage by mistake. Now we get to see how well all those boxes were labeled.

Checking my shrimp traps this afternoon I discovered four eels in one of them. The trap had had a lot of shrimp in it prior to the eels finding it, but now there were few shrimp and most of those were dead. The eels had eaten many and the slime from the eels seems to kill shrimp that can’t get away from it. These were the shrimp I was going to use to bait a line I intend to stretch across our back yard, if we are allowed to stay here beyond the next few days. Now I will have to try to catch more shrimp. Two of the eels, coming down the walkway, make me think “Oh my, here come the eels!!” in mock horror.

The river is at 21.36 on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising to 24 feet on the 26th. That is still almost a week away. At least we may be able to stay here to see it rise.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 High Water – Ten

Today there was a mass meeting of emergency personnel at the Butte La Rose store, down near the boat landing. I parked a little way from it and just watched for a couple minutes. There must have been a hundred people spread out in small groups of four or five, all engaged in what appeared to be very serious conversations. Some carried clipboards and wrote things on them, checklists were checked and to-do items crossed off or completed as I watched. Some carried little notebook computers and fingers swept over keyboards or pecked the keys one at a time. One person who had to be a higher-up in the mix of agencies literally hurried from one small group to another, stopping only long enough to exchange a word or two and get a nod in return. The whole thing looked somewhat disorganized, but not chaotic. You could see that all these people had a part in the flood response, though some seemed to know their role well and others were looking for clarification.

I found some people from the Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality. They were here to pass the word to homeowners that any hazardous materials could be placed at the roadside and a contractor would pick them up. I think they were actually going from house to house putting notices on doors or speaking to the residents if they were at home. The timing might have been better if this had been done last week or the week before, since almost no one with a house in Butte La Rose is still here. We had the usual collection of old, partially filled paint cans and I gathered them and put them out as requested. There were some old gasoline containers too. They were gone an hour later – so fast! I had the feeling that the contractor who picked them up was watching me, knowing I was one of the few people who knew about the hazardous pickup, and when I appeared at the curb they pounced on the paint cans, thereby justifying the contract they had with the state. I am being cynical, but actually I’m glad somebody thought of doing this.

The water continued today to not rise. It has been about the same for the last four days. The media and the authorities continue to warn that even though the river is not rising as fast as predicted, it will rise to unprecedented levels in the next seven days. It surely is not a good time to let your guard down and become complacent. But you can see in the reports that there is concern that all of this might have been overhyped. Still, it is better to expect too much and not get it then to downplay the significance of high water and have people be unprepared. There certainly was sufficient warning this time.

The river is at 21.04 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising to 25 feet in the next five days. Hopefully it will begin to flatten out after that. I wish we could watch it when it is that high. But we will have to leave Saturday morning.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 High Water - Nine

Leaving the house, the timing for it, has been determined by the authorities. The notice came out this afternoon. Mandatory evacuation of Butte La Rose will be in effect as of Saturday May 21. No one will be allowed into the community after 8:00 AM. The water should be at 23 feet by then, two feet higher than it is now. This is well before the road access is threatened (at least the part of the road that we use), and well before the water comes near our house. It seems a little premature to me, but I believe some of the roadway toward the pontoon bridge is lower than our portion, so all things considered it’s probably time to leave. We will be gone either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

It is harder to leave than I thought. And for how long? It is the not knowing what is happening that bothers me, and I am sure there will not be an effort to keep the migrated residents informed about daily conditions back here on the river. Not to be expected, anyway.

Tomorrow I will take a good look around and tidy up the place. Silly, but it feels right. Like cutting the grass yesterday. Why? It feels right to leave it looking good, that’s all. If I know Carolyn, she will do the same thing to the inside of the house before we go.

The river is not quite at 21 feet today on the Butte La Rose gauge. It has not really moved up or down for three days. Some think that the strong north wind that we had blew the water out into the bay faster than it would have gone with our usual southeast wind. So the rate of rise that we have been having came to a standstill. The river will make up for this in the coming week, I guess, but it seems to have helped slow the rise.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 High Water - Eight

Things go slowly once you have done all you can do. We will not leave until we have to, either because the electricity has been turned off or the water has denied access in some way. In the meantime we took time to visit the people who have agreed to host us for the next few weeks. They possess a great depth of generosity.

The frogs and toads are anticipating having water for their spring cycle this year, and I would bet they're right. Some water will stay in small ditches and pockets long after most of this great volume has receded. Sensing this, Gulf coast toads, green treefrogs and gray treefrogs are singing in the early evening as we watch the water moving past the dock. And mosquitoes will like the small pockets of standing water too. As mentioned earlier, the big wading birds are very active along the riverbank: egrets and ibises, and even night herons are almost always in sight now, somewhere along the grassy edge of the waterline. Swamp rabbits and cotton rats are more and more displaced as the water rises. We have both in our yard, but not these individuals. Taken by Brad Moon last weekend.

The river has ways of teaching even those of us who think we have seen all that it can do. I let my attention be diverted late this afternoon while I was paddling the small bateau and I fell overboard, just like that. The boat zipped under the dock and there was no room for me to go with it. Splash. Camera, cell phone, wallet, keys (electronic) all went splash too. It was shallow so there was no issue with swimming, I just walked out, dripping. The cell phone and camera are now in a bag of desiccant. We’ll see how much good that does tomorrow.

The river is at 20.8 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. It has not risen more than two inches during the last 48 hours. Is there a “calm before the storm” adage that applies to water? I don’t know. But starting tomorrow there is a predicted rise of one foot a day for at least the next five days. Five feet of water in five days is a lot of water in a short time. I’m pretty sure we will be out of here by Saturday or Sunday. I wonder for how long.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 High Water – Seven

Sunrise this morning on a river in flood isn’t much different from a river in normal flow, at least on this river. If you don’t see the current racing south, it can look peaceful, even. Right now there is no debris in the channel, and I swear I don’t know why. It has been about 14 years since the water has been at the level it is now, about 20 feet. In all that time there should have been a lot of trees, etc., fallen and ready for a ride when the water reached them. Not so.

Why do I call it “high water” instead of flood? Because the old people who lived in this Atchafalaya Basin never saw water as a threat, they saw it as a source of income, of commerce and of communication. At least that is true for those I know. To them a high water was something that came around every ten years or so, and was an inconvenience to be sure, but not a serious threat to life and limb. The people I speak of all lived on houseboats and water was the thing you lived on, as we live on land today. When the water came, you loosened your ropes and rode high for a while, until the water subsided. Oddly enough, it was when the water began to fall that your house was in the greatest danger of sinking. If you didn’t tend the ropes frequently, the house could tilt to such a degree against a bank that water would come in over the side of the barge and fill it up. Of course you wouldn’t lose it, but it was an inconvenience.

The military has arrived in Butte La Rose. The National Guard has a presence now, and seems to be working in conjunction with the sheriff’s personnel. This morning as I drove toward the interstate on my way to Lafayette, there was a checkpoint at what you might call the entrance to Butte La Rose. Two soldiers stood there, weapons across chest, and monitored who could come into the community. If you had proof of residence, you could pass, if not, you were made to turn around. I must admit that the mere presence of those powerful rifles, held at ready, always gives me a feeling of wariness, even though I know they are there to protect me and my property. The men were very polite and respectful, and intent. I am glad they are here, and the weapons are necessary, I know.

Late this afternoon we, Carolyn and I, had to go to the far end of Butte La Rose. To those unfamiliar with the community, it is mostly a 14-mile stretch of asphalt highway with residential structures strung along it, sometimes on one side, sometimes on both. So, in traveling the 14 miles we saw pretty much the whole place. It is amazing how vacant it is. People have evacuated trailers, and lifted houses on blocks, and put plastic sheeting around the houses and anchored the sheets with sandbags. They have done all these things to protect property that means something to them, even though a lot of the structures would not be something you would buy. No doubt some of the efforts to save them exceed their monetary value. But to the owners they represent what living in Butte La Rose can do for you - provide solitude, and closeness to big water, and sunrises and birds singing at dawn. Most of all, I think, it is an awayness from the city, any city. It is understandable that people would want to be here. Children who come to this place know that frogs sing loudly, and fish are good to eat, even with bones in them, and outdoor odors are good to smell. In providing these things the sometimes run-down “camps” are worth the cost of saving them from the high water if possible.

The river is at 20. 8 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, having risen only a little since yesterday. The prediction is still for a great deal of water yet to come, but there are some new and encouraging numbers being published about how high the water might get. Maybe it won’t be as disruptive as we thought. But it’s really too early to tell. So we wait.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 High Water – Six

Now we wait. All the boxes have been packed and moved out of danger from flooding. All of the things in the yard have been picked up and placed high enough to avoid floating away, we hope. All the firewood for next winter is on the front porch. The house now looks like it has been furnished for people eight feet tall, with the furniture up on blocks. So now we wait. We are very lucky, and grateful to those keeping an eye on the river, for the extended warning we have had. I think we will be here until we are forced to leave.

The Morganza water should be getting to us as I write this. It will not come in a big wave, but more like a rise of about one foot a day for the next week or more. A stick marked in six-inch intervals will help keep at least a small feeling of participation in this otherwise passive role we humans have, at least it’s passive once you have done all you can do. So we wait.

We still do daily maintenance on the floating dock, loosening ropes and pulling away debris that floats down and jams against the front. Enough of that can eventually overstrain the ropes sending the dock on a ride downriver. Not much of a problem so far. Note the two white ibises flying upriver in the picture. There are ibises, herons and egrets scouring the banks all along the yards fronting the river. Where there was dry lawn last week, there is water-covered feeding grounds for them now.

There is a constant stream of trucks and trailers on Louisiana Highway 3177 today, even more than in the previous several days. I guess the word is out there that this water is really coming. Some of those big “motor homes” are being hauled away from Butte La Rose. A few of them actually sag at each end. The axels are in the middle, more or less, and the ends droop, but off they go down the highway toward some form of safety. Some don’t look like they will be doing much more of this, like an old horse that would prefer an nice pasture and a warm place to sleep, and less time on the road.

So far there has been very little evidence of wildlife disruptions. Already the water has flooded areas of our yard that housed underground facilities for possums, coons, armadillos, rabbits and several kinds of rats and mice. No evidence of them. Where might they have gone? I fully expect to see some evacuees on our porches at some point. They are all welcome, although I might discourage the water moccasins from feeling too secure.

The river is at 20.6 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. There has been a difference in what is predicted to be the top level of rise. But you don’t know whether the change is the most factual or the usual rumor. We hope the latest prediction is justified.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 High Water – Five

Blogger was not working last night so I skipped til now. Also, it temporarily lost the previous post. Odd. But that post is back now.

Tired. It has been a long day, made much shorter than it would have been had it not been for the fabulous group of friends that came here today and pitched in to help pack boxes and carry things to the attic. We ended with 126 boxes all packed, taped (and labeled!), and ready for the truck tomorrow morning. There were times when the energy of youth was very evident compared to the lack of same in those of us not so youthful anymore. One of our friends finished the day by photographing all the outbuilding and major features of the yard, and the house too, of course. We, the elders, sat and let the day wind down instead.

The river is getting serious out there today. It barrels down at a high rate of travel that I have not seen before. Now, there is an almost constant stream of debris down the middle of the current. It does seem to hold to the middle of the river rather than spreading out. In checking the floating dock this morning I noted that it will be necessary to let go the rope that brings the dock close to the bank. The angle that rope takes will cause the dock to be pulled underwater when the water comes up another eight to ten feet, which it seems to want to do. It is at 19.6 feet now and it might actually hit the 29 feet predicted for it. I have other ropes that tie the dock at a very long angle, and they should be all right.

Some of the friends who came today were people from Myette Point. They are catfishermen, now and past. They can no longer run their lines because the force of the current makes the lines so tight that it would be very dangerous to try to run them. It is probable that there are no lines left now anyway. One big tree drifting down and dragging the bottom will take all of the lines with it, and there are a lot of big trees in the water right now. One of my friends pulled a cartilage from a rib last week while trying to run lines that were too tight. Best to let it go, and start over when this statement by the river has been made.

The notice came by emergency phone message tonight. The St. Martin Parish emergency system called all of us and said that the Morganza gates will be opened some time in the next 24 hours. Once they open, we will begin to see a rapid rise in the river after a delay of about a day. If they open tomorrow at noon, we should see water coming up about midday on Sunday, and perhaps a rise of about a foot a day thereafter to the crest about the 24th. That is pretty much what was predicted two weeks ago. We won’t be here to see it. So, no real surprises, other than I will probably be surprised to see so much water even with all the intellectual foreknowledge of it. “I didn’t believe it would really happen” is a probability.

The ants are doing things. They're moving up and down ropes in a frenzied way. We always say that animals know about these big events, that they sense them somehow. Or do we just call attention to it when the behavior and the event coincide? I would like to believe the more mysterious, unexplained explanation, but that may be just the Cajun in my mother’s family looking for something fun and witchy in the world.

The river is at 19.6 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. The Ohio is not pushing from behind with more water and that is a good thing for those of us in the river’s extended path.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 High Water – Four

Coming home from Lafayette late this afternoon I saw them finishing a levee being built to fend off water that would threaten the Butte La Rose Visitor Center. I had no idea anyone could build a levee so fast, all in one day. Now, why couldn’t they come and do the same thing around our house? Come to think of it, I guess I didn’t ask.

There is so much material (refrigerators, etc.) being trailered and trucked away from Butte La Rose right now that the whole area should just rise up several feet pretty soon. Ironically, then it wouldn’t be necessary to haul the stuff off. Oh well.

Going down to the river tonight I took a few pics of the dock after dark. The water is up to 19 feet now, and what’s that I see down there on the railing? Is it the first refugee with a banded tail? Not this time, it’s only Flurry the cat taking an evening stroll with me. She and her sister will be boarding with friends soon.

So many people have called and emailed offering help! You just never know how people respond to a perceived need. One gave us 54 packing boxes, the fold-up kind. Another is renting a U-Haul truck to load Saturday, and he’s coming to help load it! I am truly humbled by the response we are seeing. Sometimes, like now, it’s really fine to be a member of the human race. Sometimes.

The river is at 19 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge, rising to at least 22 feet a week from now. I wonder if you can smell in it the cities where the water has been? Can you tell Memphis from Vicksburg?

Rise and Shine, Jim

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 High Water – Three

Put out (at the curb) a prodigious number of cans full of waste today. Garbage pickup tomorrow. Somehow getting rid of stuff makes you feel safer, or lighter in the sense of being buoyant, maybe.

Looking out of the bedroom window the view of the water rising in the yard is surreal. It just doesn’t seem possible for water to cover our whole yard. Those of you who have stood on our deck will note that you would be hip-deep if you stood there now, and the water will be about eight feet over your head by the time the crest reaches here around the 24th.

It was not a good day for seeing a brighter tomorrow. The authorities met with the Butte La Rose community at the firehouse this evening. At first there was the thing the politicians had to do, the thing they always do. And then the National Weather Service made some announcements dealing with the latest approximations for water levels. They increased the prediction to 29 feet, from a previous estimate of 27 feet. Twenty seven was bad enough, but possibly not reaching the floor of our house. The new forecast of 29 feet just kind of took all the stuffing out of us. It will very probably cover the floor of the house. This will mean we will definitely be out of the house for months.

The New Orleans COE District commander was there, Col. Ed Fleming. He tried his best to instill in the crowd a real understanding of how much water is coming, and what it means to people who live in Butte La Rose. He made the comment that he wouldn’t be surprised to see 15 feet of water where we stood at the firehouse. The crowd gasped. It was a very effective way to get across how serious the situation is. He said that he almost certainly will exercise his authority to open the Morganza spillway gates. The water will take one day to reach us here, one more day to reach Iberia Parish, and on the third day it will reach Morgan City. And he will give us a three day warning before he opens the gates. At least now we can see some events that will trigger actions like final packing. No, 29 is not a good number for us.

The contractor who built our house 11 years ago has said he is standing by if we need him to do repairs, and that makes us feel a little less anxious. And the electrician who wired the house originally called me tonight and said he will be ready to come out as well. We are grateful for knowing these things.

There is not much debris in the river yet, even though it is pretty high. When the Morganza water gets here it will carry 38 years of accumulated trees and everything else that has fallen to the ground in that vast area in that time. It should be quite a sight. I believe we won’t be able to see it, at least not from where we live.

The river is at 18.4 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. More will come.

Rise and Shine, Jim

Monday, May 09, 2011

2011 High Water – Two

More warnings and more approximations. It is hard to plan the rescue of your belongings based on approximations, but that is all there is. If not for that, I suppose there would be no warnings at all, like in the days before the Corps and the National Weather Service. But now we have those and we can just about picture the water overflowing Memphis, heading for Vicksburg and casting a frightful eye on us at Butte La Rose.

The water is rising. Today it is at the edge of our deck, overlooking the river. Well, not really overlooking now, more like looking out at it, at eye level. The deck is usually ten feet or so above the water at this time of year.

I found some disturbing news today, of a different sort. We know we will have to leave our property and evacuate to somewhere. Don’t know where yet, but it will probably be someplace that comes with a cost. We had been under the impression that the additional costs would be covered under the flood insurance we have, just as a homeowner’s policy usually covers them for other types of damage that requires you to vacate your home temporarily. Well, no. The flood insurance doesn’t. It used to, but now FEMA issues all flood insurance and the policy they sold us does not cover “living away” costs. How about that? Until now I had only heard of the reasons why so many people fussed about FEMA. Now we can fuss too.

Kind friends agreed to house our three cats today, should that become necessary. Kind people indeed, especially since there is no way of knowing for how long yet. The cats are trying to figure out the new decorations on the back porch since we piled all the decorative driftwood from the yard on it. I do wonder about those piles of wood and all the desperate creatures that will soon be looking for a dry place to rest, any dry place. I expect snakes and mice and mink and rats and who knows what else. Possums and coons would be too big, I think, hmm.

The river is at 18.26 feet today on the Butte La Rose gauge. The Ohio is falling, but it sends its greeting in the form of a message coming down the Mississippi. Hold on! They forecast 27 feet without the Morganza floodway being opened, and probably a good bit more if it is. How much more?

Rise and Shine, Jim

2011 High Water – One

They say the water is coming. They say it will be very high this year because the rains in the Midwest have been unusually heavy, and frequent. They have exploded the levees in Missouri to save Cairo from drowning. They say for us to prepare for the worst flooding since 1973, or even 1927.

It is hard to look out over our back yard and imagine that what they predict will happen. It looks so peaceful, and usual, with the grass and the newly filled depressions. We should be heading into the time of falling water and hot summer days. You can see the water back there, well within the riverbed. But it has been rising, and for the last several days it has come up about six inches a day. It is now at 18 feet. At that rate of rise we might have 27 feet by the 25th, the day they say the crest will be here. Our yard will not look like it does now, then.

Today I went to visit some neighbors to just make sure that other people are having to think about the same things I am. It was comforting to hear them worry too. So today I and two friends began to do the preparations that you can do to get ready for the flood. You can only prepare for the conditions predicted by others, and in our case those conditions predict two or three feet of water over our whole yard, lasting for more than a week before it begins to recede. What can you do? The outbuildings we have, a shop and a garage and a boathouse, all of which are on slabs, are now free of any object resting on the ground. Everything is piled as high as possible and I’ll probably never find things I knew well before today. We filled my truck with all the power tools in the shop and moved them to a friends house, along with a freezer containing animals to be prepared for my bone collection. All the driftwood has been secured onto the back porch, and the firewood being collected for next winter is on the front porch. The cats are very confused.

The house will be dealt with next. I sure would like to believe the water won’t get high enough to flood the house, but I’m not sure I do.

Sometime in the next few days we will have to leave our property. We are told the road will flood and people will not be able to return home until the water recedes. Only then can we begin to deal with the damage the water will have done, whatever that is.

The river is at 18 feet now on the Butte La Rose gauge. It is rising and will continue to rise for some weeks, perhaps. The Mississippi is charging south with an energy that reminds us that there is a reason to pay attention, always.

Rise and Shine, Jim