Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Old Man River

With friends and family from NW USA to SE Europe inquiring about the safety of Louisiana, alarmed by readers of teleprompters, as an interested adoptive resident of this state, since 1981, I thought I might post here what I just wrote in an e-mail:

I think that where I live is safe (not that anyone can believe what officials claim); I think that (a) my neighborhood did not flood in 1927, the year of the Great Flood, after which the levees were buiilt, and (b) it is from the LSU campus and southward that flooding could occur, UNLESS they open the Morganza Spillway.  The Continental Shelf ends just south of the LSU campus; south of that, all is alluvium, and the river doesn't have any ancient (stone) banks in that alluvial delta-land.  The reason why they will not open the Morganza Spillway unless it is necessary is that there is much fertile land and many farmhouses and villages in the area that would naturally be flooded if the Spillway had to be opened.  Still, they already have opened part of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, which diverts water into Lake Pontchartrain instead of into New Orleans.
The Native American tribes who had their settlement at a place where they marked their territory by setting up a bloody stripped tree trunk, which the French settlers, using it as a landmark, called le bâton rouge, whence the name of this city, knew the land and had the good sense not to build their settlement farther south.
It is the wealthier suburbs south of the center of Baton Rouge that are likeliest to be flooded, because also the tributary streams that empty into the Mississippi, such as the Amite River and the Comite River, are NOT protected by levees.  I have the good liberal sense to be glad to live among all the ethnicities of Baton Rouge!
Still, one never knows.  The Army Corps of Engineers have been busy checking the levees, and along the river, where there are chemical and petroleum plants, they are in fact putting up extra protection--for the first time in my memory, since 1981.  And I have never known the Morganza Spillway to have been opened.  Not that I recall.  So this really is a major flood.
They speak of Vicksburg, MS, flooding, and I must write to my friend who lives on the opposite bank, in Tallulah, LA.  Vicksburg hasn't flooded since I came south in 1981.
My sense is that areas that did not flood in the Great Flood of 1927, before there were levees and spillways, this time, with them, ought to be OK.