"River rats" watch rising waters and hope for the best

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The impact of Tropical Storm Lee ruined what would have been a busy end-of-the-summer weekend for the tourism industry.  Instead of busy beaches, and crowded hotels, this Labor Day weekend has been a washout.

Tropical Storm Lee might be best described as a "blustery nuisance".  The storm pushed debris onto the beach. It made a sandy mess of Highway 90. And it forced river residents to pause and prepare.  A large debris line along the beach is the most obvious reminder of Lee's visit.  As pelicans face the wind and waves, a line of jet skis sits silent along the sea wall, a safe distance away from the angry surf.

Drivers on Highway 90 contend with a slurry of sand, rain and seawater.  Local rivers begin to swell, prompting a familiar ritual for river residents.

Folks who live along area rivers are certainly watching the impact of this tropical weather more closely than other people might be. I visited with a group of self-professed "river rats" as they watched the waters rise late Sunday afternoon and evening.

Mike Moses was one of those river rats. "We go through this about every three or four years. But it's worth it," Moses said. "It's a great place to live."

Moses watches the Tchoutacabouffa River rise with his friends and fellow river residents.  They're all familiar with the high water ritual. "You just watch the forecast and pick up everything that might float away. Then you have to see how bad the clean-up is," said Moses.

Pete Trexler lives in a neighboring home. "We're in pretty good shape right now. We just don't know what's going to happen in the future," said Trexler.  Trexler and the others have been through this so often, getting prepared is second nature. These friends understand and appreciate that every storm is different, and each is a potential threat.  "We're not real excited about it. It's just one of them things," Trexler said. "We just go through a ritual every time one comes up, so that's what it's all about."

A part of the storm-prep-ritual is parking vehicles and boats on high ground along Highway 15.  Once the storm passes, they'll all be back.  And these people who love living on the river will once again remember why.

"We get a couple bad days, and a thousand good ones," said Moses.

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