Thursday, June 19, 2014
Something to see and behold
You know, for most of the year the Floyd River isn't much more than a little joke. For most of the year, only a bulimic would put a canoe in the water here, if he could find enough to float it. For most of the year, you wonder how fish even make a home in the Floyd.
The Missouri--now there's a river. The Tennessee is really something to behold. Sometime I ought to hike across the Mississippi instead of taking the car. The Floyd? Seriously, for most of the year, you can cross it most anywhere and not wet a knee.
But this morning the lights from house across the channel are laying long and strange stripes across a whole body of water. This morning the Floyd is no creek--it's a river.
Last year's Memorial Day flooding was, we were told, "a century flood."
Does this year's mean we've begun a whole new century?
Yesterday, we were doing fine until late morning when a wall of water from up north surged down, blew out channel walls, and swept through the neighboring fields, creating Floyd's Lake. It's strange and it's beautiful out here now; and we're not really affected, if you're wondering. Floyd's Lake is far enough away that we don't have to worry, although the back corner of our acre is a fairly decent water hazard.
But then, no one's golfing so big deal.
The neighbor's beans are underwater, but they were last year too and he still had a bin buster come fall. He says he never really missed a crop down here in the floodplain, hard as that is to believe.
Here's the problem, I'm told. Big dumps of rain, like we've had in the last week, happened up river somewhere--as many as ten inches over miles and miles of open cropland, way too much water to be absorbed. Guess what?--it had to go somewhere. From the headwaters in Osceola County, to Sheldon, to Hospers, there are only two little tributaries. From Hospers to Alton and all the way to LeMars, there aren't any. That mass of water hasn't a place to back up, the channel, meager as it is, has to handle all of it.
Well, it can't. Poof!--we've got a flood. Like right now.
In 1953, all that water swept down into Sioux City and killed 14 people, three of them kids, even though that wall of Sheldon floodwater came by to visit mid-morning. It swallowed Leeds, crowded into downtown, and destroyed the stockyards. People crossing the viaduct had to be rescued. Little Floyd's River--that's what Lewis and Clark named it--was a killer.
That's why, today, the Floyd does no more wilding. It's been straight-jacketed by a flood control system that tamed its temerity. That's nice. Something's lost when we toy with a river, even little Floyd. Something's lost when it can't teach us that we can't control everything. Something's lost when it ceases to be a source of wonder.
But you can't blame Sioux City for locking up a mass murderer, and that's what Floyd's River was in 1953.
Right now, out behind the house, we've got a lake. There's something stunning about that, something that stops you in your tracks and last night turned the gravel road over the bridge into a busy thoroughfare. Last night there was no end to cars, a steady stream (pun intended) of rubber-neckers. That's all right. Floyd's Lake is something to see and behold.
Yesterday, I had an meeting in Sioux Falls. We started out early expecting trouble at the Big Sioux. About 45 minutes later, we turned around and came home. Couldn't get over the river. The flooding is incredible. Nobody alive in Rock Valley, Iowa, will ever forget the June flood of 2014 because what they have in Rock Valley right now is Rock Lake. They're suffering.
Fourteen people dead in the Floyd's flood of 1953--that was suffering.
Twenty-five dead back in 1893--that was suffering.
For the next couple days all we've got is a brand new lake home.
Still, it's something to see and behold.
To see and behold.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:37 AM