National Geographic : 1937 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE © International News ASTONISHED INLAND AMERICANS SAW LONG RAILWAY TRAINS LOADED WITH SURF BOATS AND UNIFORMED COAST GUARDS, RUSHING TO THE FLOODS These boats being loaded at Jersey City are part of the greatest fleet ever sent to American inland waters. Manned by plucky crews, hundreds of such craft, in January, 1937, helped to rescue the drowning and to care for thousands of homeless, hungry victims of high water. Working in cold, rain, and darkness, these heroic blue-water men themselves were often without food or dry clothing for hours, yet remained characteristically cheerful, cracking their sailor jokes even in face of personal peril (pages 769 and 780). waste of money. That seems inseparable from all hydraulic adventure on the titanic scale necessary in battle with big rivers. Since 1543, when whites first saw a great Mississippi flood, infinite hours, dollars and words-have been spent on these high waters and their control. UNCLE SAM IS MAKING THE MISSISSIPPI BEHAVE Cutting down forests, overgrazing, plow ing up grass, and draining swamps all tend to increase local floods; their effect on super-floods in the lower Mississippi-be cause of incalculable water volume-must be negligible in seasons of heavy, wide spread, continuous rain. But Army engi neers have now proved-with their levees, their spillways and overflow basins-that they can control high water below Cairo. There remains the huge problem of the Ohio. All downstream-in Wheeling, Parkers burg, Huntington, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, Jeffersonville, Louisville, Evansville, Paducah, men ask: "How can we control this river?" "Trouble is," said an old Cincinnati water-front man, "lots of this land where houses are really always has belonged to the river. . . . People just keep encroach ing on the river, with mills and warehouses and wharves, making it narrower and nar rower. Then, when it gets high and must spread, there's no place for it to spread except up into somebody's second-story windows." But whether with dams, flood basins, or levees-or with all these-here is another big problem for the Army engineers.