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The Mighty Mississippi

Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011, at 2:50 PM

This has been some kind of spring, hasn't it?

First widespread tornadoes, then flooding all along the Mississippi River.

Because my sister was so afraid of the river, she came to stay with me last week until the danger was over.

She evacuated the town of Caruthersville when the river was predicted to crest at 49.5 last Monday. The concrete seawall will hold back only 50 feet of water.

Townspeople feared the wall and levee couldn't withstand that kind of pressure.

After living under that threat for many days, the crest was lowered to 48.1. Then finally last Saturday the river crested at 47.5 which was a welcome relief, though it set a record..

Probably by the time this column reaches print, the Mississippi River at Caruthersville will be dropping into a more comfortable level.

There is much seep water in the area, with some businesses and homes affected.

Jiffy Jim's fast foods had to be sandbagged last Friday night because water was boiling up from the ground in a nearby ditch that was overflowing.

Walmart Store in Caruthersville was also surrounded by water. A large sink hole between Hayti, Mo., and Caruthersville, caused a section of Highway 84 to be closed.

I can sympathize with those who are battling the mighty river. Especially those whose homes have been destroyed by high waters.

I also was caught in flood waters when a creek overflowed and ran into my cottage.

It was in Indiana many years ago when my children were very young.

Even though I had lived near the Mississippi River in Caruthersville most of my life and had read about the flood of 1937 that took lives and inundated homes, the river had never bothered me. When I was a child I used to play on the seawall that held back the river.. Many times my family drove down to the river, behind the seawall, just to look at the river and watch the barges go by. That was a Sunday afternoon excursion for many families. We would also watch the ferry boat go back and forth from Caruthersville to Tennessee.

But when flood waters threatened me, it was the Wabash River that caused havoc in Peru, Indiana.

The Wabash River had swelled and overflowed into tributaries all along the river.

For some reason, I had no fear when I and my family went to bed that night.

There was a peaceful stream that meandered behind the cottage just a stone's throw away.

I awoke in the night to an unfamiliar sound, a sort of rushing noise near the bedroom window.

I looked out the window and saw that the house was completely surrounded by rushing waters.

I ran to my daughter's bedroom, only to step into ankle-deep water near her bed.

The driveway was completely underwater and so was the roadway in front of the house.

There was no way to tell where the driveway and the road intersected. It was a sea of water.

Eventually, my family was evacuated by boat by volunteers from the nearby air force base.

Though the water entered the house and was about six inches deep, the house was not damaged.

But the cleanup was something else.

When the water receded, it left behind a floor of mud.

Mud covered everything on the floor, including the box of Tide and all those many items beneath the sink.

Furniture was damaged, the wood swollen by standing water.

It took a long time to get things back in order, but most was salvageable.

Soon the memory of the flooding was pushed to the back of my mind, as daily chores took precedence.

But nature has a way of shaking us up when we become complacent.

I'll tell you about the second flood, this time in winter, when blocks of ice sailed past the cottage, but that will wait for another time, another flood..

Thank you, Lord, for receding waters.

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From these hills
By Peggy Johnson
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