Mississippi River Flood: Angst for the Animals

Mississippi River Flood: Angst for the Animals
Mississippi River Flood: Angst for the Animals

The enormity of the impacts of a flooded Mississippi River didn’t hit Greg Hackney until he was driving home from the recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Lake Murray.

Hackney, who spent the week casting in the clear waters of the lake, worried about the flow of muddy water that was inundating his 6,000-square-foot lodge on Island 88 near the Arkansas/Louisiana border.

“You couldn’t help but think about it,’’ Hackney said. “It bothered me. I watched the Weather Channel constantly and stayed in touch with friends and family, so I knew it wasn’t good.

“But the worst thing was driving home and I started getting pictures. That’s when it really started hitting me. The thing is I feel more for the wildlife than I do for the things that I can replace.”

That worry was shifted to his family and home in Gonzales, La., when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway. The open spillway will send water to areas of Louisiana that haven’t seen floodwaters since the 1930s.

“I live a mile from the river now,’’ he said. “I’m outside the levee, but still in the flood plain. If it were to break it would flood quickly. It would be an inland Tsunami.”

While Hackney, along with the others around that floodway, prays that the levee will hold, the damage is already done upriver.

How much damage won’t be known for some time. The water, although falling inches at a time, isn’t expected to completely drop out for some time.

Hackney will take a trip by boat this week to his camp to survey the damage. Prior to the river crest that is drawing comparisons to what Arkansans refer to as the Great Flood of 1927, Hackney and his partners in the area were able to move some of the valuable contents of the lodge to higher ground.

They even moved a barge into the area to take their vehicles to dryer places, but the water completely inundated all their storage buildings and was as high as 5-feet within the three-story lodge.

The lodge “is on a mound that puts the floor 13 feet above the surrounding land,” Hackney said. “Plus, that area is one of the highest areas in that part of the world. Of course, it’s all floodplain, but it’s actually higher than a lot of ground around there.”

Rebuilding is just one of the costs of having a recreational hideaway in that area. Hackney said when you buy a place down there, “you just know that.”

“But you just don’t expect it to get as high as it did this time,’’ he said. “The water went up to 64.5 feet (the level the Corps of Engineers uses to measure the height). You hope in my lifetime it won’t get any higher. But then again, in 2008 it got up to 57.6 and we thought it wouldn’t get any higher.

“That was supposedly a 100-year flood, now three years later it’s even higher. They just seem to get worse and worse.”

Hackney recalls boating into the area in 2008 to take care of the damage.

“The real loser then and now are the wildlife,” he said. “When we went down there three years ago, the deer were ganged up and starving. There were turkeys in the trees with nowhere to go.”

One of the more compelling images he received from his friends was of a raccoon on the top of his lodge.

“He will more than likely starve,’’ Hackney said. “There’s nothing to eat on that roof. All of our deer are gone. They’ve either drowned, swam the river to Mississippi or on higher ground miles away. And I don’t know what to think about the turkeys, all their nests are gone for sure.

“From what I understand, the does that survive will abort their fawns because of the stress. So we lose a whole year class of deer, plus some. Those that do drop their fawns will come back, but once the fawns are grown they will return to where they were born.

“From that standpoint, it’s tragic.”

Photos courtesy of Greg Hackney

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