In the past two days, I’ve crossed the Red River at Alexandria/Pineville, the Atchafalya River at Krotz Springs, and the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge. The water is HIGH.


The hydrologists assure us the levees can handle the volume, which they say is not even record-setting within the past decade. But still, I couldn’t get over the level of water up against the levees in all three of those rivers. At Krotz Springs today, mature willow trees that grow inside the levee on dry land were halfway under water. Seeing tree tops rising out of swirling brown eddies just didn’t look right.

At Baton Rouge, the River looked twice as wide as normal, the water stacked up almost to the top of the outer levees, giving the River the appearance of vast wideness (greater than its usual vast wideness!) and revealing very little margin for error if the water continues to rise. Thank God the crest is just a few days away, because if all of this keeps up, I’d worry that something could give.

In fact, the East Baton Rouge levee watchers have been reporting sand boils erupting outside the levees these past few days, a phenomenon associated with the pressure of  flood waters going subterranean to pop up like springs on the wrong side of the levee. These sand boils are the precursors of more serious breaches, reminding us that floodwaters work harder beneath the surface than they do on the surface.

I recall as a kid visiting my grandfather’s house on Friscoville Avenue in Arabi, St. Bernard Parish, next to New Orleans. His house was about four blocks from the River. Once during high water, I recall standing on the sidewalk in front of his house and looking down the street toward the River. Seagoing ships anchored in the River cast the allusion of resting on the levee since I could see what seemed like the entire ship, but of course, no water. Walking to the levee showed what was really happening: the ships were floating on high water that rose to within just a few feet from the top of the levee, so from the street level, which was lower than the water level inside the levee, the ships seemed to be resting on the levee.

Gosh, if those levees ever fail . . .

I’m glad I don’t live in the flood plain!