Across The Delta, Folks 'Watch In Awe' As Rivers Rise

May 11, 2011

The destructive power of the "slow-moving wall of water" rolling south from Illinois to Louisiana, as NPR's Scott Neuman writes, is hard to capture in words. It's something that has to be seen to be fully understood.

As NPR's Debbie Elliott told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep today, in parts of Mississippi, folks are flocking down to the levees "to watch in awe" as waters rise in the mighty Mississippi River and its tributaries. Debbie, who's been reporting from the region for many years, says that in places such as Greenwood, Miss., "the water is higher than I have ever seen it."

And The Associated Press warns that:

"The worst is yet to come, with the crest expected over the next few days. The damage in Memphis was estimated at more than $320 million as the serious flooding began, and an official tally won't be available until the waters recede.

"To the south, there were no early figures on the devastation, but with hundreds of homes already damaged, 'we're going to have a lot more when the water gets to where it's never been before,' said Greg Flynn, a spokesman for the Mississippi emergency management agency."

James O'Byrne of New Orleans' The Times-Picayune this morning relates what he's seen along a 25-mile bicycle ride on a paved path from New Orleans to Norco, La.

"Anyone who doubts that the river has become T.S. Eliot's personification of 'a strong brown god' need only walk up the slope of the levee and peer over the top," O'Byrne writes. "For weeks now, on bicycle rides along the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish stretches of the path, we in the community of river watchers have witnessed the river rise and rise, and keep on rising, until the water towers over the homes on the other side of the levee."

He ends with this:

"In The Times-Picayune earlier this week, a woman in Morgan City contemplated losing her home, so that Baton Rouge and New Orleans might stay dry. 'Y'all pray for us,' she asked.

"It seems the least we can do."

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