The mighty Mississippi swallows Memphis in May

The Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tennes...The Hernando De Soto Bridge (I-40 between Memphis TN and West Memphis AR) Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year when I get most nostalgic for the city where my son grew up, and which I still think of as my hometown, although it’s been four years since my last visit. May is usually a fine time to be in Memphis, but this year there’s something besides the Beale Street Music Festival and the World Barbecue Cooking Championship to catch people’s attention…or send them fleeing.

As the Mississippi River is expected to crest at 48 feet today, evacuations have been ordered and the levees are being closely monitored. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported yesterday that the river was three miles wide in downtown Memphis – it’s normally just half a mile wide there. Downtown spots like Beale Street and Tom Lee Park – home of the Barbecue Contest, still scheduled for this coming weekend – are underwater, but they still drew visitors from all over on Sunday to witness the river as it approached a historic height; meanwhile, flooding sent residents of neighborhoods on the western end of the city out of their homes and into shelters.

A more tranquil Mississippi River, May 2007

The view west from downtown Memphis doesn’t look quite like this right now, and it may be weeks before it begins to resemble it again. The Mid-South Red Cross is already at work assisting flood victims, although they have not yet established a formal dedicated relief operation, and they’ll have plenty more to do before it’s all over. My thoughts are with my friends back in the Mid-South today…and I hope you’ll spare some of yours for them, too.

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