Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Favorite Destination: Memphis, Tennessee

As people were cleaning up and rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the terrifying tornadoes that crippled several towns around southeastern Tennessee (Chattanooga and surrounding areas)  on Apr 27th, another natural disaster was unfolding in western Tennessee - Memphis, one of our favorite destinations! Our area had no power and cable for 8 days (thank God for generators!), so we were in the dark, literally.

Apparently, melting snow and heavy rains in March and April had the Mississippi River rising to a level not seen since 1937. On May 10th, the Mississippi River crested in Memphis at 47.8 feet, inundating much of the low lying areas.
The Mississippi River winds through 10 states
Luckily, iconic sites such as Graceland and Beale Street in the Memphis downtown were not affected by the flood. The Mud Island River Park, which is situated next to the mighty Mississippi River, was completely submerged.

One look at the Mississippi River and you will understand why most cruisers try to avoid it. Not only is the swift current daunting, the traffic is heavy with commercial barges. Their captains' Southern speak is equally daunting. And baffling.
The mighty Mississippi River at Memphis on a normal August day
A marina at Mud Island
Click on the map to see a bigger picture of the Mississippi River System
Mai Thai is on the Tennessee River, miles upstream from the Mississippi River, so we are safe from the flood. When we cruised up the inland waterway in 2006, we had come in from Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama, then navigated via the Tennessee-Tombigbee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway. That year, Mai Thai was docked at Midway Marina on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. The marina is a mere 2 hours from Memphis, so we used to visit the city often. We loved the music scene (jazz and blues) and enjoyed the marvelous Memphis style BBQ ribs (dry-rubbed, and Blues City Cafe and Rendezvous are favorites).

Other than Beale Street, our other favorite place is the the 52-acres Mud Island River Park, which, ironically, is dedicated to life on the Mississippi River. The park has an amphitheater, a museum and a River Walk, which is a 5-block long replica of the lower Mississippi River. The park is an excellent place to spend a hot summer day with the family.
Monorails take visitors to Mud Island River Park
The Mississippi River, as seen from the park
The Upper Mississippi River, originating in Minnesota
River Walk - the 5 block replica of the Lower Mississippi River
that winds through farmlands and cities,
and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans, Louisiana
As the water recedes, clean up has begun. As a matter of fact, Mud Island River Park reopened yesterday. If you are in the Memphis area, stop by and learn more about the Mississippi River.

Here are some links (videos, pictures) to stories about the great flood of 2011.
Great Flood of 2011
Videos and stories from ABC News
Video of Memphis - Mud Island River Park, Beale Street and Graceland
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Deadly tornadoes around Chattanooga

Tornado activities in Southeastern Tennessee (Hales Bar Marina is about 1 mile east of Haletown)
Wednesday (Apr 27) was rife with activity, tornado activity, that is. We haven't forgotten the last tornado that took out a dock at the marina last month. And barely a week ago, we read about the tornado that had ravaged N. Carolina.

So this time we had the TV on, heeded the tornado warnings and took precautions. People got off their boats and cabins, and hunkered down near the entrance of the tunnel that leads to the old Hales Bar Lock and Dam. High winds from the south was kicking up waves on the Tennessee River and we saw dense clouds moving rapidly around us. After an hour, we called it quits and returned to the boat, making dinner plans with several boaters.

Little did we know.
Hunkering down around the old building that are remnants of the old Hales Bar Lock and Dam
So around 6:30 pm, we were dining alfresco, laughing and toasting to our uneventful day when a loud snap caught our attention. We jumped out of our chairs to see a waterspout heading towards us. The top looked like dense grayish cloud with churning debris, and it was about 500 feet away.

Visions of the movie "Twister" danced before me. I felt adrenaline pumping into my veins and my heart racing. I've never been so scared in my life. We were ready to duck somewhere safe or run for our lives. But where to hide? How far and fast can we run? Would we be safe if we jumped into the water? These were thoughts that ran through my mind.
The storm turned and went up the hill
Down trees on the road leading to marina
Just as quickly as it appeared, it changed direction and went up the hill, destroying everything in its path. We were very lucky. Others were not so fortunate. Our friends in Trenton, Georgia found their town flattened, with two fatalities. By the time it was all over, the vicious storm that swept across 6 southern states had claimed over 300 lives. It is now Monday. We still have no power, but we are grateful to be alive and well.
About 17 miles south of us, Trenton, Georgia
Some storm pictures are courtesy of Glenda Bean.

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