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SURRATT: Anniversary of 2011 flood brings memories

The conference room in the rear of The Vicksburg Post’s offices has a window that looks out over Levee Street and the Mississippi River.

At almost any time of the day, you can stand there and see a tugboat passing north or south through the Yazoo Diversion Canal, or watch one of the riverboats that visit our city dock so visitors can tour Vicksburg or move out of the canal for the next leg of its excursion to Memphis or New Orleans.

Then, there are times like earlier this year when you can look out and see a rising river overwhelm (or come close to overwhelming) its banks.

And when I see the river rising, I think about the 2011 Mississippi River Flood. I know the 2019 flood caused more damage and hung around for a long time, but the 2011 flood kind of sticks in my mind.

I came to work at The Post during the 2011 flood. I remember moving in on a Saturday and that Sunday going downtown to do like many other people and gaze, or gawk, at the floodwaters surrounding the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot. Days later, I was cruising the Eagle Lake area in an airboat with agents for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries looking at submerged homes and camps and water lapping on backwater levees.

In previous stories on the 2011 flood, I’ve quoted a passage from John M. Barry’s book “Rising Tide” about the 1927 Great Mississippi River Flood: “There is no sight like the rising Mississippi. One cannot look at it without awe, or watch it rise and press against levees without fear. Unlike a human enemy, the river has no weakness, makes no mistakes, is perfect; unlike a human enemy, it will find and exploit any weakness.”

The 2011 flood and the floods that have come after are examples of that passage, and I’m always amazed at the power of the river, especially when I think back to 2005 when I saw the results of a 4-and-a-half-foot storm surge rampage through my house in Pascagoula. After that display, I was a believer in the power of moving water; the 2011 flood reinforced it.

When the flood subsided, I went to Kings and Ford Subdivision to tour the aftermath and talk to residents as they cleaned out their homes and prepared to begin life anew. I saw homes knocked off their foundations. I saw one home turned completely around. Being the survivor of a flood, I could understand the pain and heartbreak these people went through as they tried to recover.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of a record flood; one that exceeded the height of the 1927 flood and caused damage to the property and lives of millions. I think it’s fitting that we remember, and by doing so, remember the lessons learned from the disaster and hope steps will be taken to either diminish or stop future loss.

There will be future floods and they will be measured against the 2011 and 2019 floods. Let’s hope they all pale in comparison.

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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