Remember those dramatic pictures of a submerged New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina back in 2005?Â Well, it’s happening again, only this time on a scale 1,000 times larger.Â There are no hurricane this time around, just way too much water and not enough places to put it.Â Â From Tennessee to the Gulf Coast, the Mighty Mississippi is busting its banks like William Shatner’s Underoos.Â Cape Girardeau, Memphis, Natchez and Vicksburg are already swamped.Â And what city sits in the bull’s-eye of the greatest flood since Noah decided to take up carpentry?Â Why, New Orleans, of course.Â The punchline in yet another of Mother Nature’s great jokes.
So while we wait for the cresting waters to inundate the Big Easy like 10,000 screaming 11-year-old girls descending on a Justin Bieber concert, let’s wring out our socks and take a Friday Fun Facts look at the Mighty Mississippi:
- The Mississippi River officially begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and flows south to the Gulf of Mexico some 2,320 miles distant.Â Â It’s actually shorter than its largest tributary, the 2,341 mile-long Missouri River, which has given it a something of a riparian inferiority complex.Â Still, combined with its many tributaries, the Mississippi remains the largest river system in North America and the 4th largest in the world.Â Water from 31 of the 48 continental United States eventually makes it into the Mississippi River.
- Spit into Lake Itasca and it will take about 90 days for your loogie it to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
- The word “Mississippi” comes from Ojibwe Indian word “Misi-ziibi,” meaning “Big River.”
- At the river’s headwaters in Minnesota, the Mississippi River is only three feet deep and moves at a glacial 1 mph.Â By the time it reaches New Orleans, it’s 200 feet deep and is moving at speedy 3 mph.
- Water skiing was reportedly invented in 1922 in a wide part of the Mississippi between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
- Runoffs of agricultural fertilizers into the Mississippi have created a massive “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted water that covers approximately 22,000 square miles off the coast of Louisiana.Â That’s an area of relative lifelessness the size of New Jersey.
- Sixty percent of all North American birds use the Mississippi River as their migratory flyway.
- The Mississippi is no stranger to springtime flooding.Â A devastating flood in 1927 prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin constructing a series of levees and spillways that has, over the decades, provided some degree of control over nature’s fury.
- How bad is the current flood?Â U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Bob Anderson says it’s looking worse than 1927.Â From the National Weather Service: ““Right now the Mississippi river is in the process of going through what we call an epic flood, meaning it’s more than historic, it’s more than a 100 year flood, it’s more like a 500 year flood.”
Stay dry…and have a great weekend.