Slate: Hell Is High Water – When will the Mississippi River come for New Orleans?

ARABI, Louisiana—The water is breaking gently around the hull of the crew boat Miss Emerson, as if she were puttering across a muddy lake. Instead she is tied at the dock of Port Ship Service, straining at her bowline as a supercharged Mississippi River rushes beneath. On the bank of a levee just over the parish line from New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, Capt. Charles Crawford is preparing to take control of the Valle Azzurra, a big ship coming down the river in a hurry. The Miss Emerson is a transport boat. She will pull alongside the Malta-flagged tanker, and Crawford will board the larger vessel as the ships run momentarily together. He will climb a ladder that hangs over the ship’s port side, whose paint is scraped from a recent trip through the Panama Canal. His assignment: steer the Valle Azzurra safely to Pilottown, where the river meets the sea.

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