Sunday, June 15, 2008



(This article was written in 2001 but seems suitable for what is currently happening in the Midwest)

As the snow melted this spring, the thoughts of people along the Mighty Mississippi turned to unhappy things such as high water levels and flooded basements. We began hearing a variety of estimates and predictions. Eventually it was agreed that we would see a flood that would be second only to that of ’65. The old-timers once referred to these as “100-year floods,” disasters that struck only once in each century. But they are no longer strangers.

Each year, more and more of the watershed area is covered with buildings, driveways, streets, and parking lots, thus increasing the runoff. And as towns and cities build levees and floodwalls, the river is confined to its channel. It can no longer spread out over many of its old natural lowland “reservoirs,” so flooding becomes more frequent and severe.

In Prairie du Chien, Wis., a favorite place for checking the water level is at Kaber’s Supper Club on Blackhawk Ave. Anytime the river water enters the intersection there, you have a major flood. And this year, Rowdy’s Bar and Grill, across the street from Kaber’s, was completely surrounded. It was there that we watched someone wade out into the flood waters and set up a portable grill, fire up the charcoal, and begin preparing the entrĂ©e for an evening meal. All the while sloshing around in almost-knee-deep muddy water, and more than 50 feet from the nearest dry land. Certainly no fire hazard there. The TV news camera people got some great footage of that scene.

The high water covered some of the railroad tracks in the area, resulting in many train runs being cancelled or re-routed. Almost all river traffic was suspended. All of the big barges had to be tied up, creating quite a hardship for everyone who depends on their services.

The flood drove many people from their homes. And the eventual cleanup will be an almost unbelievable, backbreaking task. But the turnout of volunteer helpers has been nothing less than phenomenal. Individuals, groups, and organizations turned out in force to help wherever needed. High school students and others filled and placed thousands of sandbags, building up the dikes and levees and protecting homes and other buildings from damage caused by the wind-driven waves.

If another major flood does not arrive during the next 100 years, it is unlikely that anyone will complain.


The big river flows wide. The
Wild dark water runs deep,
Carrying fallen trees and
Much rich Midwestern mud.

Sump pumps in home basements now
Work around-the-clock, while
Grayed old men compare this to
The Great ’65 Flood.

The experts all tell us the
Crest has now gone by, and
Our sandbags and levees have
All stood up to the test.

But the forecast says “rain,” and
The late snows up north will
Soon be all melted down and
Bring one more minor crest.

There’s almost no boat traffic,
The barges and small craft
Were ordered off the river
By the U.S. Coast Guard.

Today the water’s still up
Close to Kaber’s corner
And wild ducks swim around the
Swing set in Molly’s yard.

As the river rolls by, it
Seems in no great hurry,
Wending its muddy way on
Down to the sunny south.

Local folks will rejoice when
The crest’s drifted onward,
Clear to the muddy delta
Down at the river’s mouth.

When the waters recede, folks
Can assess the damage,
Then begin the hard work of
Cleaning up the great mess.

With much sweat and hard work, the
Job will be completed,
But, most likely, it will take
The whole summer, I’d guess.

Both the Salvation Army
And Red Cross are here with
Food for the hungry, and beds
Where the weary can rest.

Volunteers come in flocks, to
Help wherever needed,
Folks’ bad fortune, at times, can
Bring out everyone’s best