Crash on the levee, Mama.
Water's gonna overflow.
Swamp's gonna rise
And no boats gonna row.
— Bob Dylan, "Down in the Flood"
A flood is coming to Memphis this week. A big one. Predictions call for the Mississippi River to crest at or above 44 feet by May 8th. Flood stage is 31 feet, and we're already above that. The rising water has already forced the cancellation of the Outdoors Inc. Great Canoe & Kayak Race.
Heavy rains in the Midwest and Mid-South could push the crest even higher than 44 feet. At 48 feet, the Mississippi would cover Tom Lee Park, site of this weekend's Beale Street Music Festival. That's a worst-case scenario, but suffice it to say, we won't be seeing Arkansas across the river for a while, except for treetops. It will be under water for miles.
In the great flood of 1927, the river just below Memphis was 60 miles wide. It's unlikely, with flood controls that have been built since then, that we will witness that kind of devastation, but it's going to be very damaging to towns and homes all along the river's length. If you live near the Mississippi, it's a good time to be a resident of the Bluff City and a bad time to live on a floodplain.
We are approaching something of a perfect storm of another kind this coming weekend. Events are in the saddle that will flood downtown with activity and people as well as water. Consider: A hundred thousand or more music lovers will attend Music Fest from Friday to Sunday, and that's just for starters. Let's assume, for amusement's sake, that the Grizzlies lose in San Antonio Wednesday night. That would bring a sold-out crowd to FedExForum Friday night for Game Six of the Spurs/Grizzlies playoff series — roughly, another 20,000 people coming to Beale Street.
With or without the Grizzlies game, it will be a great weekend to be in the restaurant, hotel, and bar business downtown and a bad weekend if you're looking for a parking place. My advice is to park away from the Tom Lee/Beale Street area and take the trolley or walk.
Floods and bands and bears, oh my. It should be glorious fun.
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