May 31, 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi, Part 7 - The Flood of 1945

Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi - 2015

Flooding of the Mighty Mississippi dealt another blow to the state of Louisiana during the early months of 1945.  Central portions of the state saw 7,488,000 acres of  rich farm land and stock raising areas under water.
Taylor Daily Press (TX) - 4/4/1945

The Bonnet Carre Spillway was opened on March 23 and remained open through May 18.  This was the second time the spillway had been opened since its completion in 1931 and the first time that all 350 bays were eventually opened; allowing 318,000 cubit feet of water per second to pass through.

While the opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway saved the city of New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana were less fortunate.

Catahoula Parish was faced with the overflow from the Mississippi, Ouachita and Black rivers.  Jonesville was reported to have been surrounded by flood waters.  Harrisonburg became isolated and the Coast Guard was sent in to rescue people from roof tops.

An article published in the Monroe News Star on April 17 reported that the Ouachita River showed signs of dropping.  However, as the article goes on to state, Catahoula and Concordia parishes continued to face backwater flooding.

MNS - 4/17/1945

"The backwater, rising rapidly, has covered nearly the entire residential section of Ferriday, coming up as far as the post office in the business section of the city.  All of the mill section, colored quarters and the Interstate Natural Gas Company area have been under water for some time past."
"At the Red Cross headquarters a large crew is working to alleviate suffering and to take care of those moved out by the water.  Guards are still on duty at Jonesville, which has been isolated by floodwaters.  Around Harrisonburg, guardsmen are working with the Red Cross and families are tented along hills from Sicily Island to White Hall and Jena." 

The Port Arthur News of Port Arthur, Texas reported on April 25, that  an appeal had been made by local officials to U. S. Army engineers to open the Morganza floodway to help drain off flood waters which had covered the parishes of Concordia, Tensas and Catahoula.

Port Arthur News - 4/25/1945

Construction of the Morganza Spillway began in the late 1930s.  The control structure was not completed until 1954.  The flood control act of congress stated that waters were not to be diverted through the Atchafalaya floodway by the opening of the Morganza Spillway until all improvements had been completed in the Atchafalaya floodway.  Those improvements had not been completed at the time of the 1945 flood.

Despite the flood control act of congress, a congressional delegation toured the Morganza floodway and determined that the opening of the floodway would "bring little relief to already inundated areas and great harm to southern Louisiana."

Mary, Willie and Tim Cupit - Catahoula Parish, 1945 (courtesy of Pam Twiner Thompson)

*This post is part seven in a series of posts in which an attempt will be made to document the history of flooding in Catahoula Parish caused by the overflow of the Mighty Mississippi River.  Occurrences will be presented using maps, newspaper articles, photographs and reports from the State Library of Louisiana and other collections from the sources linked below each post. 

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