The Mississippi River at New Orleans is reaching flood stage in the next couple of days. There is really not much to worry about. Despite my general feelings about the Army Corps of Engineers, they are on top of this one. As, they usually are with all things river.
On Saturday, the ACOE are opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway to relieve the water flow into the city. I had to laugh because they are planning this so well, that they even have a figure for the number of people that they anticipate coming to view the opening. Watching the water flow from the river out into open land is very impressive. You begin to understand the power of nature. By doing this, the biggest temporary loss is the closing of a two lane mostly dirt road that is a cut through from River Road to Highway 61 (Airline Highway) near La Place. I think the road was first cut by engineers shaping the spillway, and then by off-roaders and finally by people looking for a short cut. But, this happens every couple of years, usually in Summer, so it’s not the big deal that some more national media make into be.
As far as shipping goes, the US Coast Guard have long-standing protocols to deal with a very high river. At worst, freighters will be stacked up in a line, waiting their turn. And, some ships will have a few issues docking. But, that’s under the guidance of river boat pilots who are very, very good and very, very experienced.
For a while I wasn’t sure that I could document any of this. There was an early issue of levee path closures to bikers and walkers. The leaders on both sides of the river thought better of that and basically just said, “Use your head and don’t fall in.” Oh, “And do report anything you see like a sand boil.” That’s sand rising up through the levee which may indicate that it’s leaking.
All of that said, this is another thing you could do when you visit my fair city. No, not report sand boils. Take a walk along the river. If you are just hanging out in the French Quarter, you could walk along the river for just long enough to get some understanding of how it affects the city. You could walk from the Aquarium of the Americas to the Bywater. That’s a nice easy walk. You’ll see a lot and you’ll meet some interesting people. Just remember if anybody wants to bet you that they know where you got your shoes, the answer is “On my feet.”
For those of you who really like to walk, you could take the streetcar to Audubon Park, walk through the park to the river and walk upriver for as long as you’d like. Just remember that if you walk in one direction, you have to walk back. Or, have someone meet you because you could walk to well outside of the city. Or, you could ride a bike. It’s a great walk or ride and you’ll get out of the city and into the country. You’ll learn just how quickly New Orleans changes from the third world Caribbean country to the Deep South. If you are visiting in the summer take plenty of water. And, a hat. And, sunscreen. Don’t walk in the mid-day sun. Only mad dogs and Englishmen do that.
Going forward. I’ve been casting about for new ideas for Storyteller. I didn’t realize how many of you actually read it to learn about the city in preparation for your first visit, next visit, or something more. That gave me an idea. It’s your idea.