Rising Tide by John M BarryHere in Houston, we know all about natural disasters.  We know how to clean up after them.  We know how to feed people who have lost everything.  We know how to take care of people while they get back on their feet.

It hasn’t always been like that.

In the teeth of the Mississippi Flood of 2011, we visited some friends in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.  At the time, everyone was anxiously watching the news to see if the great spillways would be opened, diverting flood waters from the Mississippi to the Atchafalaya.  They were.  One of our friends gave me a book titled Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry, 1997.  It made fascinating reading – especially against the backdrop of the 2011 flood.

John M. Barry is an absolutely gifted writer – able to make dense, complicated issues as gripping as a detective novel.  His vivid descriptions of the people, places and events of this enormous natural disaster rival only the stories about the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston.

The Mississippi River drains 31 of the 48 contiguous states, so a system-wide flood has national impact. At one point during the disaster, the river was one hundred miles wide and over thirty feet deep.  There were 40,000 refugees from one county alone, lined up on an eight-foot wide strip of levee.

Scientific in-fighting, political back-room deals, and social engineering - this book has it all.  This is not an “easy read”, but it is an excellent one.

Recommended by Ann M.