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The Unwound Third => Jam Session => Topic started by: Rivers on May 10, 2019, 07:52:43 PM

Title: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: Rivers on May 10, 2019, 07:52:43 PM
Those of us with an interest in the causation, history and challenge of Mississippi River flood control (something of an oxymoron, as Mark Twain pointed out) may find this article from Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground fame, interesting. It's part one of a three part series that I look forward to following.

https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Americas-Achilles-Heel-Mississippi-Rivers-Old-River-Control-Structure?cm_ven=cat6-widget
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: lindy on May 12, 2019, 09:56:06 AM
Mark,

Be sure to put John McPhee's "The Control of Nature" on your reading list. The Mississippi River / Atchafalaya swamp "control" mechanism is one of 3 or 4 examples he discusses. McPhee can make *any* topic interesting.

Good Reads link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/77.The_Control_of_Nature?from_search=true
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: Stuart on May 12, 2019, 10:16:04 AM
McPhee can make *any* topic interesting.

Ain't that the truth--Here's one I enjoyed:

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780865477391

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/75.Uncommon_Carriers
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: Rivers on May 14, 2019, 04:36:20 PM
Thanks for the recs guys, I look forward to diving in.

I'm stuck for a suitable adjective for this image:

(https://lh5.ggpht.com/_yiiPzeRfNBQ/TKA3zrn6w0I/AAAAAAAADPc/dddF-zYbC_I/s800/050624_fisk.jpg)
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: lindy on May 15, 2019, 12:08:56 PM
Mark:

Can't help with the adjective choice beyond the obvious "mind-boggling" variety, but I will point out that the area the map covers is precisely the area that McPhee talks about in the Atchafalaya chapter of his book.

As McPhee notes, if we could watch that section of the river over geological time from a satellite perspective--that is, over thousands of years--we would see the bottom of the river swinging back and forth like a tassel attached to the end of a piece of rope, so that for a century or two the Mississippi enters the Gulf fairly close to where it does now, and then swings many miles to the west, where it captures the Atchafalaya River, and then repeats the cycle.

The other thought that the map triggered was the skill that riverboat pilots--including Samuel Clemens--needed to have while traveling up and down the river. They needed to not only have knowledge of all the eddies and sand bars and deep pools in the river, they needed to know how they had changed since the last few times they were in the same sections.

So I'll add yet another suggestion for your book pile for next winter's blizzard reading season: "Life on the Mississippi," a Mark Twain memoir. He describes just how difficult a riverboat pilot's job really was. 

L
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: eric on May 16, 2019, 11:31:41 AM
I think there may be an old thread about the 1927 flood, but in any case this a a great read, encompassing people, history, politics, origin of the USACE, river control and so on:

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America ISBN-13: 978-0641763625

McPhee is an excellent interpreter of geology, among other things.  In a previous life, I spent an inordinate amount of time around rivers, and find them inspiring, both scientifically and metaphorically.
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: Stuart on May 17, 2019, 10:11:31 AM
I can't recall if this book has been mentioned previously:

https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/backwater-blues

I haven't read it.
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: Slack on July 14, 2019, 09:03:47 AM
Thanks Lindy and all for recommending "Control of Nature" and McPhee, never heard of him and this stuff and his writing is right up my alley.  Actually, I've read his stuff in the New Yorker... And timely, I just got through with his Mississippi river piece and understand perfectly the problems and danger they are now facing.  Let's hope the control structure at old river holds.

I'm on the 2nd story now about Vestmannaeyjar, which I visited a few years ago while in Iceland -- I knew about the 1973 volcano and toured the volcanic flow - but had no idea what the island went through - absolutely fascinating.  It's nice to have google maps to zoom right down and see for yourself!
Title: Re: America's Achilles' Heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure
Post by: lindy on September 12, 2019, 11:04:26 AM
2019 version of the 1927 event ... as the article states, different disaster speed. Do check out the "big picture" maps showing the amount of land that flooded this year ... and take a look at Cairo, Illinois, a town we like to sing about ...

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/11/us/midwest-flooding.html

Lindy