Thursday, June 14, 2018

High Water: Vicksburg's March 2018 Crest

Just before the crest, March 12, 2018, Ford Road, Vicksburg, Mississippi
The high water of 2018 in Vicksburg was on March 16 at a level of 49.9 ft on the Vicksburg gauge (which is located at the old Mississippi River bridge, the one that carries US 80). What does 49.9 ft mean? As a comparison, the table below from the National Weather Service lists other high water crests:

Historic Crests
(1) 57.10 ft on 05/19/2011
(2) 56.20 ft on 05/04/1927
(3) 53.20 ft on 02/21/1937
(4) 52.80 ft on 06/06/1929
(5) 52.50 ft on 04/28/1922
(6) 51.60 ft on 05/13/1973
(7) 51.50 ft on 02/15/1916
(8) 51.00 ft on 04/20/2008
(9) 50.23 ft on 01/15/2016
(10) 50.20 ft on 04/16/1897

Low Water Records
(1) -7.00 ft on 02/03/1940
(2) -6.80 ft on 11/01/1939
(3) -5.80 ft on 01/06/1964

As you can see, the water level of the Mississippi River as well as the Yazoo Canal and Port of Vicksburg can range about 50 ft or 15 m in many years. This poses a challenge to construction of docks and loading facilities. At Vicksburg, the definition of "flood" is when the water reaches 43.0 ft on the gauge. 
Flood Categories (in feet)
Major Flood Stage:50
Moderate Flood Stage:46
Flood Stage:43
Action Stage:35
The low-lying land north of the Anderson-Tully Worldwide on North Washington Street has always been vulnerable to flooding. The wood facility has its own protective levee, but the Ford and Kings Subdivisions just to the north begin to flood at about 44 ft.  
Ford Road, Vicksburg, March 12, 2018
Ford Road, Vicksburg, March 12, 2018
I do not know the history of these neighborhoods. They are clearly vulnerable at high water. Why were houses ever built here? Over the past decade or more, many houses have been purchased and torn down via a FEMA-funded program for vulnerable properties. I wrote about Marys Alley in 2010 and 2016 (click the links to see pictures of the lost cottages). Those houses looked to be 1920s or 1930s vintage, suggesting the area was developed a century ago, probably at a time when there were no flood zone restrictions.
View north from Haining Road, Vicksburg
During high water, it is fun to bike along Haining Road because the flooded fields and woods to the north host water birds and snakes. 
Young Alley, March 16, 2018.
Young Alley is just off  Ford Road, literally behind the wood plant. The cottages are high enough to clear of the flood water at 49 ft elevation. You can see water in the driveway.
Railroad Alley, Vicksburg, March 12, 2018.
Railroad Alley, March 16, 2018.
Railroad Alley parallels the railroad tracks, just a short distance north of Ford Road. Parts of it flood at 49 ft. I have photographed the property with the horses before, at a time when the poor animals had less dry land within their yard. I recall asking a fellow about snakes, and he said horses were the best snake-squashers around.
The railroad tracks, which run north to the International Paper mill in Redwood, are on a raised embankment. The embankment serves as a levee. To the west of the tracks (left in the photograph), the the land floods. East of the tracks, or right, the houses are mostly safe. I am not sure if culverts and stream crossings are plugged before a high water event.

The tracks are operated by WATCO, a short-line operator. From their web page: "The Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR) began operations January 8, 2006. Watco Companies acquired the railroad from the Kansas City Southern in November through a lease agreement and was formerly known as the Redwood Branch. The VSOR consists of 24 miles of track and interchanges with the KCS at Vicksburg, Mississippi."

All photographs are from Kodak Panatomic-X film, taken with a Hasselblad 501CM camera with 50mm, 80mm, and 270mm lenses, all tripod-mounted. I scanned the negatives with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format scanner controlled by Silverfast Ai software.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A River (Ditch) Flows through Vicksburg: Stouts Bayou

Stouts Bayou (in red), Vicksburg, Mississippi. Map created with ESRI ArcGIS Online.
Definition of bayou. 1 : a creek, secondary watercourse, or minor river that is tributary to another body of water. 2 : any of various usually marshy or sluggish bodies of water. (from Merriam-Webster online)

Stouts Bayou starts its circuitous path in northeast Vicksburg somewhere in the gullies below Beulah Cemetery, according to the US Geological Survey topographic map. It flows approximately southwest through town, passes by the Lee Street ball field (near Vicksburg High School), continues south near the Vicksburg water treatment plant, and eventually discharges into the Mississippi River just north of Letourneau Landing. I asked a friend, a former city engineer, about the bayou. He said that a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s channelized much of the creek as it wound through the then-developed parts of the city (which, back then, meant the areas occupied by white residents). But the city did not acquire the right-of-way. Private property owners own the land on which the bayou flows and the city does not have a perpetual easement or permission to have access. In decades past, when labor costs were low, city workers would regularly clean trees and debris from the channel. I do not know how they got permission to access private land or if they bothered with such bureaucratic business in the past. City workers still clean brush and trash from the sewer or water pipes that cross the bayou in various areas. But the pipes are often located near bridges or roads and have easy access. But for general cleaning, the city now needs to secure written single-use access permission and hires contractors for the work. I read in the Vicksburg Post in 2017 that some land-owners refused to grant the city single use permission and the contractor could not reach some areas of the bayou. As usual, as an outsider not employed by the city or trained in law, such nonsense baffles me.

Since the channelization project in the 1930s, the bayou has received little maintenance. Some of the banks have been rip-rapped (stone placement) or concreted, but many of the 1930s panels are buckled or lifted. That means there is more friction for the flow.

We will take a short tour of Stouts Bayou from various bridges in town, starting upstream and moving downstream. (Click any photograph to enlarge it.)
1920s bridge at Grove and 4th North Streets, Vicksburg. Photograph from 2012.
This brick arch bridge on Grove Street is an example of the robust infrastructure built in the 1920s. The bridge seems to be sound, but the weeds and brush could use trimming.
Stouts Bayou from East Avenue (near Olive Street).
Looking south from the bridge at East Avenue, the stream bed is a mess. Trees have displaced some of the original concrete channel, blocks have been uplifted, and trash and debris have been discarded into the channel.
Stouts Bayou west from Drummond Street bridge.
Stouts Bayou west from Drummond Street
The bayou passes under Drummond Street just south of the Bowmar Avenue intersection. The channel is a dirty mess with brush, broken concrete slabs, and trash.
Avenue B footbridge, January 2018.
Stouts Bayou from Avenue B footbridge, January 2018.
West of Drummond Street, the land drops into a valley occupied by a series of small streets with letter names. A steel footbridge crosses Stouts Bayou from Avenue B to Valley Street. The photograph above is the view south taken during the January 2018 snow storm.

Stouts Bayou from Avenue C. Kodak Ektar 25 film from Hasselblad camera.
The view south from Avenue C shows carelessly placed riprap for stream bank protection. Some of the 1930s concrete channel appears displaced.
Stouts Bayou, National Street. Kodak TMax 100 film.
At National Street, the Bayou still has the concrete channel. During low water, I have walked in the channel here.
Stouts Bayou from Lee Street. Kodak Ektar 25 film from Hasselblad camera (50mm Distagon lens).
The bayou flows south under a bridge on Lee Street, just west of where Stadium Drive joins Lee. Not a pretty sight. This an example of what is happening to infrastructure all over the USA.
Stouts Bayou at Patricia Street (Moto G5 photograph).
Stouts Bayou at Patricia Street (Moto G5 photograph).
Patricia Street is a little known street that extends off Army-Navy Drive, past the City's maintenance and vehicle shops. Patricia dead ends, so there is no through traffic. The bayou marks the west edge of a small community of houses. I have photographed there before, but over the years, many houses have been demolished.
Stouts Bayou bridge (approx. 1903) was replaced in 1937 with a similar girder span and then again in the 1960s with a modern concrete span.
The bridge in the photograph above is in approximately the same position as the contemporary concrete span that carries the North Frontage Road. The Kansas City Southern Tracks are in the same position as a century ago, and the bayou runs under one of the spans on the right (from a 2000 brochure titled Highways in Harmony, Vicksburg Military Park Tour Roads from the National Park Service, documented in 1997 by the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)). Photograph attribution:

46. Steel viaduct spanning stout's bayou and railroad on South Confederate Avenue. Destroyed circa 1938. - Vicksburg National Military Park Roads & Bridges, Vicksburg, Warren County, MS

Title: 46. Steel viaduct spanning stout's bayou and railroad on South Confederate Avenue. Destroyed circa 1938. - Vicksburg National Military Park Roads & Bridges, Vicksburg, Warren County, MS
Creator(s): Faust, William A. II., creator
Date Created/Published: 1997
Medium: 4 x 5 in.

This ends out short tour of Stouts Bayou. South of town, it is less accessible, and I have not seen where it flows into the Mississippi River.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Footloose around Vicksburg with Kodak Ektar 25 color film

Dear readers, I had one last roll of the long-discontinued Kodak Ektar 25 color negative film in 120 size. I loaded it in the Hasselblad and wandered around Vicksburg. The Ektar is quite contrasty, so I prefer to use it when the light is overcast, or, best of all, foggy or rainy. Vicksburg offers plenty of topography and interesting architecture, so we will take a semi-random tour around town. (Click any photograph to enlarge it).
Clay Street, Vicksburg, view east.
Let us start this short tour with Clay Street, a major east-west thoroughfare. This is the first view of Vicksburg that many tourists see when they exit I-20. A friend called this the ugliest street in America. That is a bit harsh, but much of it certainly qualifies as the typical ghastly American commercial strip with crummy fast food joints, steel buildings, car parts stores, and dollar stores.
My friends at Warfield's Servicenter kindly let me take pictures. They have kept the family cars running for many years. Highly recommended.
Jackson Street, Vicksburg, view east.
Three blocks to the north is Jackson Street, which still retains its brick paving blocks. Many of the houses are a century old. The photograph shows how the street follows the hills and valleys of the local terrain.
Walnut Street is also in the oldest part of town. This is a 1992 frame I found in my archives.
Veto Street runs from Monroe Street (behind me) west towards Mulberry Street. It is an odd curved road. Did a streetcar once run on it? This 1992 photograph shows the Warren County library in the distance. I took it from the roof of the former Vicksburg Hospital. The hospital was demolished two decades ago and the Vicksburg police station in now on this footpad.
Former "Colored Motel," US 80, east of Mount Albans Road.
Before the interstate was built in the early 1970s, Highway US 80 was the main road between Vicksburg and Jackson. Just east of the intersection with Mount Albans road, a pink motel is almost covered with kudzu. In the early 1980s, you could still see a big sign stating "Colored Motel." Somewhere in my negatives I may have a photograph, but that is a project for another day.
East of town on Culkin Road is the former Culkin Academy. It has been empty for at least two decades. A worm farmer rented the premises for a few years.
In downtown Vicksburg, the neighborhood near the junction of Marcus Street and Halls Ferry Road is known as Marcus Bottom. Many of the cottages here have been demolished over the years.  This photograph is from the Halls Ferry Road bridge where it crosses Stouts Bayou.
These shotgun houses are on East Avenue. The slope in the foreground drops down into Stouts Bayou.
Grammar Street once had 10 or 12 of these little shotgun houses. Only two remain now. Even a decade ago, they were pretty nasty.
Union Avenue is a street that descends from Sherman Avenue south towards the Vicksburg Military Park. This is not the Union Avenue within the park, but possibly it once connected in the era when there were multiple park entrances. And this outside Union Avenue is a bit odd. The west side is City of Vicksburg, while the east side is Warren County. Residents on the west get their water from the City, while residents on the east get it from Culkin Water District. The old Chevrolet and the house with blue tarp roof in the photographs above are in Warren County.
I found a 2010 photograph of this same Bellaire. Since then it moved across the street to the Warren County side.
Ford Road, Vicksburg, Mar. 16, 2018
Near the flood crest, Mar. 16, 2018.
Young Alley (off Ford Road), March 16, 2018.
Finally, here are some scenes from the spring flood, when high water forced some of the residents in the Ford subdivision to evacuate. The crest on the Vicksburg Gage was 49.90 ft on 03/16/2018 (from the National Weather Service). This area west of North Washington Street and just north of the Anderson Tully wood mill has always been vulnerable to flooding. Over the years, many houses have been bought via a FEMA program and demolished.

These photographs were taken on Kodak Ektar 25 film with a Hasselblad 500CM camera, with 50mm, 80mm, and 250mm Zeiss lenses. all pictures were tripod-mounted. The film was expired and the colors are off. My scanner software does not have a profile for Ektar 25, so I used the Ektar 100 one instead. Is it "accurate?" Who knows? Can you really remember how the scene looked weeks after you were on the site?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Typical shotgun houses: Arcadia Place, Vicksburg

Arcadia place is a dead-end street a few blocks west of Drummond Street. It features a set of almost-identical shotgun houses. I have photographed here before and occasionally walk by to see if they have changed. They are an excellent example of modest early-20th century architecture, low-cost homes built for workers. Much has been written about the American shotgun house, but I am not an architect or sociologist and am unfamiliar with the literature. These little houses are disappearing from the South, and I try to photograph them when I can. I previously wrote about these houses in 2010. This 2017 photograph is an Ektar 25 frame from a Hasselblad camera.
Arcadia Place, 4×5" Fujichrome Astia film, 135mm Schneider Xenar lens.
Arcadia Place, Kodak Panatomic-X film, Fujifilm GW690II 6×9 camera. 
The little houses in 2003 and 2004 looked about the same as now, but the porches were open then. These were film frames taken with a 4×5" Tachihara camera and a 6×9 Fujifilm GW690II medium format camera.
This is the view from the east across Stouts Bayou (below the rip rap in the foreground). I do not know if the Bayou ever rises enough to flood the yard and the street beyond. The houses are up about 2 ft on their post and beam foundations, so they are probably safe from flooding.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fading quickly: Fortification Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Fortification Street is one of the main east-west thoroughfares through downtown Jackson. East Fortification, between the I-55 exit and North State Street, passes through the Belhaven neighborhood, a traditional 1920s and 1930s residential area. The highly respected New State Theater is just a block north. But drive west of North State Street, and the scene gets scummy quickly. Let us take a short short tour of the area, starting just west of North State and proceeding west. Most photographs are from Kodak TMax 100 film taken with a compact Olympus Trip 35 camera.
513 East Fortification Street
Garage at 513 East Fortification Street
The neighborhood was once residential, with handsome 1920s and older cottages. The huge Baptist Hospital complex is just to the north. Its footprint gobbled up many former residential blocks. Now, because of the heavy traffic, living on Fortification would be noisy and unpleasant.

427 East Fortification Street
A sign at the back of the handsome Queen Anne cottage at 427 identifies it as the Galloway-Williams House, 1895. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) fact sheet describes it as:
The Galloway-Williams House is one of Jackson's finest examples of a Queen Anne style cottage with Eastlake-inspired ornament. Both its external and internal character are almost completely intact. It is one of only a very few such structures remaining in an area of Jackson which was once dominated by similar late-nineteenth-century residences. Its site is an especially important one, directly across Fortification Street from the fastidiously restored Gothic Revival Manship House, one of Jackson's most notable historic structures.
930 North Congress Street
A short diversion onto North Congress Street reveals a semi-residential semi-professional neighborhood. This big 2-storey house was unoccupied.
395 East Fortification Street
1009 North West Street
At the corner of West Street and Fortification, we have the typical gas station-convenience store-strip mall. Not too inspiring. I wonder if it replaced a neighborhood grocery store?
998 North Lamar Street
1107 North Lamar Street
Let's walk another block west and turn left onto North Lamar Street. Again we see a residential neighborhood with some occupied houses and many abandoned units. It is sad.
Cohea Street
I did see a number of modest new houses or townhouses on Cohea Street, so some degree of revival underway. Maybe a reader can let me know who is funding this project or what is happening.
Grayson Court, no longer extant
A couple blocks west and we reach what is left of Grayson Court. This was once a double row of shotgun houses. In 2004, they were pretty nasty, although I met a workman there who was painting and repairing. They have all been torn down, and even the lane is hard to see.
Just south of Fortification Street overpass is a complex of steel buildings and sheds. I think these were once a soybean processing facility. It has been closed for many years. At one time, many of the men in the Farish Street district to the south may have worked in the plant.
Canadian National Railway shunting yard, view north from Fortification Street overpass
View northwest to Wood Street from Fortification Street overpass.
Continuing west, Fortification Street rises over the Canadian National Railways rail yard on a 4-lane overpass. There is a good view of the tracks from here. To the west, a broad area of debris and brush was, I assume once industrial. Now it looks like an area to dump bricks, gravel, and brush. And maybe an occasional body?
Salem Street cottages
Just south of the Fortification overpass is a group of cottages along Salem Street. I saw the standard Pit Bull dogs tied up and decided I better not venture into the area alone.
Bell Street
Walking north on Wood Street, the first cross street was Bell. A stream of clear fresh water was flowing in the gutter. In the distance, city workers were repairing the pipes, which had burst in the unusual freeze of early January. The City suffered hundreds of burst pipes, which compounded the problems of aging and ill-maintained pipe infrastructure.
1107 Wood Street
TJ's lounge sits at the corner of Wood and Bell Street. TJ was sitting in a car watching the city workers and the flowing river of fresh drinking water. We chatted. TJ does not allow anyone under 31 or any drugs, hard liquor, smoking, weapons, or firearms in his club. He said many lawyers and professional people came to listen to Blues.

This is the end of this tour. There is plenty more to record in Jackson.