Monday, May 9, 2011

Mississippi Floods

It's been in the news, I know. The masses of water barreling down the Mississippi. We saw it all from the bluffs in Natchez and Memphis. But when you're driving around amid the bayous of southern Louisiana, you don't get the news. There's still a lot of dry ground between Houma (which is an hour southwest of New Orleans) and the Gulf of Mexico.

There are interesting bridges along the backroads that parallel the bayous on the way south to Cocodrie to allow the shrimping boats to get through. Much of the landscape is water, though there's also a lot of grass--it looks like a very unkept corner of the Netherlands. The houses and shacks that line the bayous are all perched fifteen feet in the air, with cars and boats stored in the open air underneath.

I spotted a least bittern fly into a roadside march and then run delicately along the tops of the reeds in pursuit of a fish. Forster's terns were flying overhead, and helicopters passed repeatedly much higher up carrying men and parts out to the oil rigs in the gulf.

A construction worker at a snow-cone stand along the canal told us that they were going to open a spillway and flood the town of Morgan City, which we passed through yesterday. We told him we were headed for New Orleans and he said: "They're also going to open up the Morganza spillway. You'll be going right over it."
"Can we get through?" I asked.
"Of course," he said, "There's bridges."

From the waterfront in the French Quarter, the river looks like a mile-wide rapids... but the ships are still moving up and down the river. Music is playing on the Riverboat Natchez. They're serving beans and rice and beer and hurricane drinks at a dozen restaurants in the Quarter. It's 90 degrees, and it's fun.

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