It’s tough when it’s simply out of our control

Published 12:17 am Sunday, May 8, 2011

I’ve probably spent days of my life sitting at the intersection of Canal Street and John R. Junkin Drive.

From The Democrat’s office on Canal Street that intersection is the fastest route out of downtown. It’s a busy intersection, and one that typically has a good bit of traffic.

John R. Junkin, the local name for what is actually U.S. 84, is the primary east-west corridor in our community.

Email newsletter signup

Through the years, I’ve photographed at least half a dozen car wrecks and other mishaps at that intersection.

But Friday as I sat awaiting a green light, I saw fear and caution running through that intersection — truck after truck hurrying past, headed east with trailers in tow.

Some trailers carried boats, but most of them carried bedrooms and living rooms of parish residents trying to have peace of mind by moving out their stuff just in case the Mississippi River floods their neighborhoods.

Watching life after life hurtle past. I mashed my foot onto the brake pedal just a little bit more firmly. It’s frustrating, knowing that something bad may be coming. But knowing there’s not a single thing you can do about it, that’s worse.

Sometime around 6 p.m. Friday, the river gauge at Natchez clicked up to 54.01 feet. That itself is not a historical mark.

The river has been above 54 feet many times. The river topped 57 in 2008. But it’s mind-boggling to think that the current forecast calls for the river to grow another 10 feet — straight up — from its Friday evening mark.

With a 64-foot anticipated crest on May 22, the river will effectively gobble up large chunks of what we all know as “dry land” along the banks.

Exactly how far it comes up and what potential damage is done is difficult to know or predict.

All of the experts have said that our local levees are in excellent shape and they should hold up fine to the record levels of water coming down river.

But human beings tend to worry. It’s our nature, sharpened by our modern world in which world events are transmitted live or nearly live around the world. We literally can see the worst disasters in the world seconds after they occur.

Over time that has conditioned us to immediately think the absolute worst possible outcome is inevitable in most situations.

That’s why the trucks whiz past, hauling personal property out of harm’s way, just in case. While it may be human nature to fear the worst, fortunately, the opposite is often in order.

When the people who are experts on river levels, levees and floods say that everything should be OK, we must take them at their word.

The experts seem to think the likelihood of a catastrophic levee failure is minimal, at best.

Our local leaders continue to report they’re doing the best they can to fight the most insidious problems of all, one far more difficult to stop than the rising water — the ridiculous rumor mill.

Please realize that no evacuation has been called for yet. No one has predicted a 30-foot wall of water will come crashing through our community.

They’re all just rumors.

Rest assured, if something changes, local authorities, this newspaper and its website and other media outlets will be quick to get the word out — loudly.

In the meantime, let’s all pray that the water rises and falls again with minimal impact to us — beyond shuttling furniture around.

May God bless our community and all of those who are working to keep others safe.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or