Jones Lumber Company forever changed

Published 12:02 am Friday, May 18, 2012

NATCHEZ — It may be business as usual at J.M. Jones Lumber Company one year after the Great Mississippi River Flood of 2011, but owner Lee Jones said things will never completely get back to normal.

Jones — who is among a 100-year-old family lineage of owners of the sawmill — said the company has done some work shoring up its levee that is directly on the riverfront since the flood.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to get back to normal with the beating this place took,” Jones said.

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J.M. Jones employees worked around the clock in preparation for last year’s flood to supplement the existing levees to fight a river crest, which at one time was predicted to be a 65-foot crest.

The river ultimately crested at a record 61.95 feet on May 19, 2011, one day before J.M. Jones was originally to celebrate its 100th anniversary with a party at the Natchez Grand Hotel.

One year later, the company’s milestone has yet to be celebrated.

“We’re kind of out of the mood now,” Jones said. “We’re thankful to still be here, but at the moment, we don’t have any plans to celebrate.”

Jones said even with the sawmill in the floodplain and after last year’s experience, the company will not be moving.

“You can’t move, that would be like somebody trying to move the Empire State Building,” Jones said. “There’s just too much equipment, building, sheds and things like that, that cannot be moved.”

Even though Jones said he thinks the company has a better levee now than it did before last year’s flood, he said he still does not feel safe from a potential flood.

“You never feel safe,” he said. “I think we’re the only people in the world with a levee right on the Mississippi River, so when you have to worry about the wave-wash, you can never feel safe.”

Jones said he hopes J.M. Jones is around for another 100 years, but he said he is not sure if that will be possible.

“You never can tell, but we’re going to give it our best shot,” Jones said.

The most valuable insight Jones said he gained was a new perspective into the kindness and generosity of the people in the Miss-Lou community.

“It made me want to be a better person than I am because of all the kindness of friends and the kindness of strangers,” he said.

“With everyone’s help, we dodged a bullet,” Jones said. “I’m still not exactly sure how we did it, but we did.”