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Floodstage Mississippi River, 1903, 1943, 1973, 1993…add 15 years = 2008: “Man, the Meddler,” by Erwin A. Thompson

Floods -- 1903, 1943, 1973, 1993, and then add fifteen years

Of course, this is an attempt to put "A little humor" into a series of tragedies. Obviously there have been other floods in years that did not end with a three.

It seemed appropriate that I preface my review of the floods with a short history of some of the contributing factors.

The "Mighty Mississippi" has its beginnings at Lake Itaska, Minnesota. This is 1,475 feet above sea level, and its course follows 2,552 miles to the southward until it meets the Gulf of Mexico. I have no information as to how the river was named by "The White Man." The Indians called it "The Father of Waters."

Originally, of course, it flowed, unimpeded, from its source to its outlet where the waters mingled with those of the Gulf.

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Earth's Weather Images for the Classroom
(click on photo to enlarge)

COMING OF THE LEVEES, AND MAN, THE MEDDLER

But Man entered the picture. River transportation was a big item a hundred and fifty years ago. Not only for the commercial shipping of farm products and the importation into the "upriver" communities, but for human transportation as well. Towns were built along the rather uncertain banks of the "Mighty Mississippi." But when the river rose, the towns were threatened. Well, to work with mules and scrapers. They built a levee to protect the town. The levee was the place to be when the steamboats arrived:

WAITIN' FOR THE ROBERT E. LEE

OH DON'T YOU SEE THAT SHUF -FL - IN' THRONG,
DON'T YOU SEE THEM SHUFFLE ALONG?
GO TAKE YOUR BEST GAL, GREAT PAL,
GO DOWN TO THE LEVEE, I SAID TO THE LEVEE,
AND JOIN THAT SHUF - FL - IN' THRONG
DON'T YOU HEAR THAT MUSIC AND SONG?
IT'S SIMPLY GREAT, MATE, WAITIN' ON THE LEVEE,
WAITIN' FOR THE ROBERT E. LEE!

Well, as my Aunt Amelia (Mim) Riehl would have expressed it: "It was a good idea, but it didn't work." At first glance it seemed to, but ---. The idea caught on, and many communities built levees.. This served the short term goals, but ignored the over all effect of containing the water's flow to the narrow confines of the original river bed.

LOGGING PRACTICES AND WATERSHEDS

Combined with this particular meddling by the human race, is another selfish and thoughtless practice of logging off most of the timber and forests that comprised the water shed of this mighty river. The soft accumulation of fallen leaves over the centuries absorbed much of the rain-fall and snow melt. This was gradually released during the following months, and helped keep the river flowing during the dry season of the year.

This is not to say that without these meddlings with Nature's master plan the river would have not have strayed outside of its normal banks, but they have certainly contributed mightily to the present flooding tragedies that we have witnessed during the past century and a half that I have some record of.

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