We cannot stop Mother Nature, but we can better work together

Published 2:12 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mother Nature has a rather cruel way sometimes of reminding us that we are, in the grand scheme of things, but a small part of this universe.

I thought about that as I drove Mississippi 465 to Eagle Lake Saturday and saw floodwaters literally feet away from the road. The lighted Mississippi Department of Highways sign warning of high water and telling drivers to stay off the shoulders was a reminder of the potential danger ahead for distracted drivers.

The drive to the residents’ meeting at Eagle Lake United Methodist Church was also a reminder of a trip I made about five months earlier on U.S. 61 North during Tropical Storm Barry to interview then-Gov. Phil Bryant at Eagle Lake. That trip involved taking the long route and driving on the levee to avoid flooded roads.

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As I’ve written in this space before, I’ve had my own adventure with Mother Nature living on the Coast dealing with hurricanes George and Katrina and surviving both, and seeing what storm surge from Katrina did to my pickup (submerged) and my house, which took more than 4 feet of water during the storm.

Like the folks in Kings after the 2011 flood and the Yazoo Backwater Area and Eagle Lake residents in 2019, I know what it’s like to deal with the damage, the loss and cleanup after a flood.

So when I sat in that residents’ meeting, I could understand their concerns.

These were people who went through a traumatic event and were concerned for their safety, the safety of their families and their property. The memory of what happened a year ago was still in their minds, and the conditions not far from the church did not help.

The river was up, the backwater was at 92 feet, and things that Saturday certainly looked like there might be a repeat of 2019. The good news for the folks that day was the river was forecast to drop, and the Steele Bayou gates were going to open and start draining the backwater.

But outside of the river forecast, the people at the meeting were looking for answers, specifically how the government can help them in the future. They wanted to know about the Steele Bayou Pump Project; how they could receive help protecting their property; what could be done to keep them better informed.

As one who was a victim and chronicler of a disaster, I am well aware of the misinformation that develops in the wake of a disaster, and it takes an effort on the part of residents and officials to get the facts right. It also takes the effort of everyone to find solutions to better handle future disasters, large or small.

The 2019 flood was a disaster for the ages. It was the result of events and forces no one could foresee or expect, and a lot of valuable lessons were learned in its wake.

Hopefully, the governmental entities in our area and the residents will take those lessons, open communication between each other and work to develop a plan to help the residents of the backwater area.

As we have learned in the past, there is no way to stop nature from doing what it wants. The hope is that everyone — government and the residents — will work together, not to stop nature, but at least try to control its impact.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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