Howard Jones' family has been in the lumber business in Natchez, Mississippi, a charming town on the eastern banks of the mighty Mississippi River, for five generations. Now the swollen river was threatening to sweep away their operation and the family’s legacy.
Jones was covered in sweat and dirt, and after about 10 minutes, I was too. The JM Jones Lumber Co. is a dry, dusty place to work. Fine, powdery sand constantly sloughs off the bluff above it, wafting its way down into the yard where it mixes with sawdust. My boots and pant legs, our vehicles and equipment, were coated in it. Odd really, as there has never been so much water so close.
Just three weeks ago, Jones received warning that the river would go to 60 feet or higher. The lumber yard is right on the banks - well below the bluff above it that serves as a natural levee - so they were forced to suspend operations and go into the levee building business.
“We haven’t run our saw mill in about two weeks,” said Jones. “It’s been just levee construction and levee maintenance.”
It was a little eerie walking down the hill into the lumberyard on Wednesday. No sounds of sawing. Palettes were empty. Staging areas were barren. Most of the employees were up on the levee – all wearing life jackets – shoring up the levee.
“Last night, two big tugs came by late - northbound tugs, barges - and they just created a tremendous wave wash,” Jones said.
Just north of the yard is the Highway 84 bridge that connects Natchez to Vidalia, Louisiana. Whenever a northbound barge clears that bridge, wave wash starts pounding on Jones’ levee. The Coast Guard had spotters here on Wednesday and Thursday, watching each one pass and monitoring the size of the wakes.
“What happens is, not only do we have parts of our levee fall away, but it rips this heavy-gauge Visqueen (a type of heavy plastic sheeting). Under here is five feet of fresh dirt," he said. "And when that plastic is ripped, and the waves are coming into it, it’s washing the dirt away and turning it into mud.”
The levee was high enough, for now, but the big question is whether it was strong enough to hold?
life stinks sometimes. that really is a shame. maybe things will work out for them.
Natchez in one of the most beautiful towns in Mississippi.
An ancestor of mine built a house there before the War Between the States, and it is now a landmark. I have abandoned the notion of buying it back.
I wish the good people of Natchez good luck with the Mississippi's waters.
Stop the barges now. One family business with this much intrinsic value is easily more important than the commerce river traffic could bring.
Agree...stop the barges until at least down to a fair level below this record flood. Idiots at the helm should be held liable for damages caused by wake. A judge would think that a reasonable person would know their barge caused damaging wake in a record flood, and would thusly halt shipping until the record levels had passed. Get their license plate...well...you know what I mean.
So his business is worth millions a day? Hundreds of millions a day even? That is the amount of trade that comes from the shipping of goods on the big muddy. It is the whole reason people have built cities and towns near it for a century or 2, because it is the largest natural shipping lane on the continent.
Oh to be so narrow-minded and self centered to believe that this lone business is righteous enough to shut down the US economy. HELLO!
A lot easier rebuilding a teensy weensy lumber yard thsn fitting a barge with tires
Park your computer next to the barges, dolt!
Wasn't Howard Jones a New-Wave singer back in the bad 80's? AND British?
Who knew his family was into lumber!
CNN Breaking News. Just In. President Obama has just annouced that he is going to divert FEMA Funds assigned to help Mississippi Flood Victims to support Palestinian cause to redraw Border with Israel going back to 1967.
Really, really. Why would you want to put such non-sense out there. You are an idiot!
I saw Howard and his men throwing sandbags into the river bank to try and save their levee. I have a suggestion – I have seen road builders use wire mesh enclosure filled with rock to hold back dirt from hillside. Howard could put the sand bags into similar wire mesh enclosure to prevent them from being washed away by the river. Howard, May GOD spare your business and all the families whose livelihood are depended on it.
Is that the same God who caused the rain to fall? Must have a dual personality or something.
Its more than saving a medium/large sized hard wood mill that manages Timber and is good for the Environment, its about the 300 jobs this Mill represents. Those 300 employees have families, spend money in the town.The Jones' have College degrees and can get another job. It will be a huge hardship for the 300+ people that depend on this job. So stop the river traffic for a few days.
Well welcome to the club folks. Thousands of families around the world have lost whatever legacy they had to floods, earthquakes, tsunamies, etc. Some even lost some, most, if not ALL of their family members. So count your blessings that you live in America where you can always MOVE somewhere else much safer.
Our prayers are with these people, I am a third generation bussiness owner. Our store is 2 blocks away from the Mighty Ohio River. Luckly we do have a flood wall system here in place, after the 1937 flood. But there is always the chance something can go so terribly wrong. Good Luck and God Bless
Just wondering if this lumber company uses the river to transport his lumber.
As frustrating as it might be to constantly rebuild and protect his levee due to the river traffic, it IS necessary to continue shipping. The US can not afford to have its economy suffer by halting traffic on one of the main arteries of US transportation. All eyes of the government are watching this river closely. There are many restrictions that have been added in addition to normal restrictions to ensure safety.
They are using Hesco baskets for keeping the water back. It is a wire box that is filled with sand. When I read this article, I was under the impression that the citizens were doing all they could to keep the banks from washing off any more and that they were working hard to save this business. Jones lumber does employ a lot of people in Natchez. Maurice, you are so unsympathetic. Apparently, you have never had to deal with something this threatening before. This lumber company is this family's life and they are fighting it with all their might to save it.
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