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"No Flood of Emotion"

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Found this letter in the Belleville News-Democrat. http://www.bnd.com

 

"No flood of emotion

 

Where are all of the Hollywood celebrities holding telethons asking for help in restoring Illinois, Missouri and Iowa and helping the folks affected by the floods?

 

Where are the media asking the tough questions about why the federal government hasn't solved the problem? Asking where the FEMA trucks (and trailers) are?

 

Why isn't the federal government relocating people from flood-ravaged areas to free hotels in Chicago?

 

When will Spike Lee say that the federal government blew up the levees that failed in Illinois and Missouri and Iowa?

 

Where are Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks?

 

Where are all the looters stealing high-end tennis shoes and big-screen television sets?

 

When will we hear the state governors say that they want to rebuild "vanilla" states of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri because that's the way God wants it?

 

Where is the hysterical 24/7 media coverage complete with reports of cannibalism?

 

Where are the people declaring that George Bush hates white, rural people?

 

How come in two weeks, you will never hear about the Illinois, Missouri and Iowa flooding ever again?

 

Don Gillen"

 

http://www.bnd.com/editorial/letters/story/387225.html

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E, think back to the fall of 2005. Hurricane Katrina.

 

Everything that happened in New Orleans is President Bush's fault because he is racist. It was on the news for months.

 

This was quite an event and still is, but it is not likely that it will be a national news story for very long.

 

The difference is the flooding has occurred in areas with a lot of Caucasion people and a lot of farmers. New Orleans was mainly black people. Because they weren't pulled out of New Orleans and given everything, the government was racist. There are farmers and others who could use assistance right now, but they will find a way to overcome this mainly on their own.

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In the summer of 1993 I think it was, the Mississippi overflowed its banks from Iowa to Illinois to Missouri and a few other parts. I was living in Alton, Illinois at the time. The town is up in the bluff so it was pretty much ok, the downtown area was right up to the river, and it was devastated. I was working at Alton Memorial Hospital at the time and we ran the place for a week without running water. We had plenty of water mind you, just in bucket, cans and the like. Each intersectoin had a water buffalo set up by the National Guard, you came and got water and went home. While the town was in the bluffs, the water plant was right next to the river. Was many weeks before we could drink the tap water again.

 

Why am I telling you all this? Because the people then knew they lived in a flood plain, many many news stories followed people who swore they would never leave the river because their grand daddy lived there, their daddy lived there and they were going to live there and they will as long as the Feds give them money to rebuild. And rebuild they did, bigger and more expensive and only slightly higher than before so to those who got flooded out, good, you knew it would happen and you got what you deserve as did the people in New Orleans. Guess what? It will happen again, in New Orleans, when you build a city below the water level, its just a question of time, if you live in a flood plain its just a matter of time. I dont think its about race, its about stupidity and as Forrest Gumps mother would say, Stupid is as Stupid does.

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Hops, I understand why it might be perceived in the way you frame it but I think you need to consider some additional aspects that made Katrina different.

 

Unlike in the case of the recent midwest floods (which, by the way, have received a great deal of media coverage - I'm not sure I can buy the basic premise in that letter), Katrina occurred very, very quickly and very, very violently. I'm not downplaying tornadoes or thunderstorms that hit the midwest, but most were not as physically violent for as prolonged a period as a category 4/5 hurricane, followed by a category 3 hurricane (don't forget Rita, which made things so much worse).

 

Unlike the current flooding, Katrina hit a major population center. And while there was certainly a lot of stupidity in that many people didn't get out of NO when they could/should have because they figured they'd be able to ride it out, there was also the added difficulty of how, exactly, to get all those people (many who didn't own cars and couldn't afford bus fare) out of the city? Do you remember the choked highways we saw in the news, gas stations running out of gas as people fled before the storm? Lack of enough buses? As bad as the recent flooding has been, higher ground in many cases was just a few miles away. With Katrina we were talking about a swath of a hundred or more miles.

 

Unlike with Katrina/Rita, in many of the areas recently affected by flooding, local and state governments had some semblance of an emergency plan that worked, and they put it into action smoothly and quickly. Lack of adequate disaster planning in NO was a well-known fact before the storms hit there, yet very little was done by gov't officials on any level to remedy that before the storms, with the result that the human suffering was much greater than it ever should have been.

 

While we're at it, let's remember that the federal government's response to Katrina/Rita really was shockingly terribly executed and that the president's very public praise of the guy who was supposedly in charge ("You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie") in the middle of what was clearly a botched job, was pretty bizarre and hard to swallow.

 

Let's also remember that many areas that were devastated by Katrina and Rita were NOT urban minority areas, but also very poor, very rural, and very white areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana beyond NO. (Don't forget our very white and not so poor friend Trent Lott, former Republican Senator from Mississippi, whose family home was destroyed too)

 

And finally, let's remember that, while state and local officials in Katrina/Rita were totally overwhelmed and absolutely begging for help, in at least some of the recent cases in the midwest, the local officials have begged to AVOID media attention. The governor of Iowa, for example, asked John McCain and Barack Obama NOT to visit in an attempt to bring media attention with them, because the media circus would be a drain on local resources. (McCain went to IA anyway, while Obama visited flood-ravaged areas in IL instead)

 

So I think that the implications of the letter you posted - that the media is biased against Bush, that media icons only care when black people are being devastated (boy, that's a strange assumption to type, given our history), that the country doesn't care about poor white midwestern farmers who were devastated this time around- all need to be carefully reconsidered with an eye toward evidence. Not all the media coverage of Katrina was well done, that's for sure. Some things were certainly blown out of proportion and others were just absurd. But there were also very good reasons for the national attention that was focused on the government's inexcusable response and the scale of human suffering that resulted from Katrina (and Rita). Let's not downplay those facts either.

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I used to work closely with the outfit that has responsibility for studying and managing the hydrology of the river. The hydrologists, and hydraulic and civil engineers I worked with were alway quick to note that enough water will overcome any preventative measure. I am sympathetic with OGE's comment on flood plains. And to that I would also add beach developments and in light of sea level rise, coastal areas in general. Be advised, water flows downhill and then, once confined, rises. Duh!

"How come in two weeks, you will never hear about the Illinois, Missouri and Iowa flooding ever again?"

The New Orleans disaster has the distinction of being the first time it happened in modern times, in spite of our best efforts to prevent it. And the disaster response was, well, disastrous - demonstrating the grotesque ineffectiveness of incompetence and cronyism through all levels of government, yes, to the oval office.

Edited Part: I think Lisabob's response to the political forces was just great. For a fair comparison wait 'til, say, 2011 and see how much devastation remains in those areas, in comparison to what remains in MS and LA today after the hurricanes.(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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Its really the scale of human suffering. How many people have died in the recent floods compared to Katrina? Are there bodies floating around the streets of middle America for weeks? Are people being rescued off the roofs of their houses because they had to cut a hole in the roof to escape the flood waters? Is Brownie there doing a heck of a job?

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I think most of has to do with the mindset of midwesterners compared to those in New Orleans.

 

You figure it out.

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I do have to say that if there were a fleet of school buses ready to move people out of town, they would not most likely have been left to get flood in.

 

I am also willing to bet that if a shelter was set up for displaced people and advertised as the place to come, the municipality would have had essentials, such as water, available and not say hey its a Bring Your Own, Baby!

 

And if the federal government would have come charging into New Orleans, prior to the request of the state's governor, there would have been those who would have accused president Bush of over stepping his boundaries and federalizing the state of Louisiana.

 

There is plenty of blames to go around for every level, starting with people who stayed where they should not have, to the local governments who had no cohesive plan, to the state that floundered when the process calls for a request of Federal help to the Feds themselevs. FEMA should all that was wrong with is, but they didnt not equip the Super Dome with water and food before holding it out as a shelter. FEMA was not responsible for letting the school buses get flooded. FEMA did have the trailer and ice fiasco, so what did Katrina prove? That you can't rely on the government to bail you out of a problem, you have to do it on your own, at the local level.

 

BTW, what were the ramifications of the 1993 flood? Upstream flooded town built higher and stronger levee's which concentrated the flow of water in a more narrow channel that then places communties farther downstream at risk. When those communities rebuild (!) bigger and stronger levee's will be built and people farther downstream will be at risk. Perhaps the people upstream should be held to blame. Then again, perhaps, and maybe, and well heck, maybe a comprehensive plan could be developed so that flood plains are set aside and areas developed to take advantage of the rise and fall of the river, heck the Eygptians did, surely we are at least as smart as they were.

 

When you live either a few feet above or below the water level, things tend to get tight once in awhile

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Gee here is a novel idea, why don't we tear down most of the levees and let the river use most of it's natural flood plain. The levee's make the problem worse.

 

In New Orleans the people were/are addicted to the goverment taking care of them and simply put could not take care of themselves. I also believe that the Mid westerners are more affluent and better able to take care of themselves. Lets face it, it is hard to feel sorry for a guy driving a $60,000 king kab turbo diesel pulling his possession in a 30 foot horse trailer, while he complains to the news crew he lost everything, as pointed out earlier, sure he lost everything, but it was hyper insured and will be replaced bigger and better.

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To amplify on OGE and the Flood of 1993:

 

I live on high ground about 2 1/2 miles from the Missouri River. I was here for the flood. My then-wife and I helped sandbag a towns' commercial district while the owners got their stuff out.

 

1993 was not historic, it was epic. Federal Flood Insurance requires building against the P=.01 probability event (what we call the "100 year flood"). I was told at the time our flood was P=.002, or a "500 year flood."

 

I have less sympathy than I'd like for the folks of NO. The evacuation was botched. NO should have been a ghost town, period, when the storms hit. You can load people on boxcars (hoboes do it still) and move them up to Houston. You can use the schoolbusses to move people away. Instead, there were 1000s of people who chose to stay.

 

We could have avoided some of the human cost of Katrina/Rita. It demanded moral courage on the part of the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans to declare martial law and evacuate.

 

Would the human suffering of lost houses still be there? Yes. We can replace goods. Life we cannot replace.

 

My thoughts.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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We can save lives and property 100 years from now or 500 years from now by what we choose to do today. Don't build or re-build in the flood plain. Seems pretty simple to me. Dikes and levees and dredging the channel are feeble and misguided attempts to prevent the inevitable. Time and again we think we can beat nature with another row of sandbags.

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We can save lives and property 100 years from now or 500 years from now by what we choose to do today. Don't build or re-build in the flood plain.

 

Yah, gotta agree with F and OGE here, eh? As a taxpayer who doesn't live in a flood plain, it sure gets my goat when my dollars are used repeatedly to encourage morons to rebuild on a flood plain or hurricane coast.

 

Rule should be yeh get federal funds to help only if you rebuild somewhere safer.

 

If it weren't for the loss of human life, a part of me was wishin' that New Orleans got hit again the followin' year. Just to get people to move out of houses and businesses that sit below sea level on a hurricane coast.

 

B

 

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I will agree that NO was not prepared for Katrina, and there were some issues where bueuracray got in the way of sound decisions. But NO is not the only place that has happened. Back in 94, we had the floods that made the national news. The town I was living in was at the juncture of a major river and two large creeks (river size). The river and one of the creeks have power dams and lakes that control water level. Our flooding came from upstream, too much rain burst too many ag pond dams, and we had more water than anyone knew what to do with. No one was expecting the amount of water we got here. As the water was flowing across major streets within two blocks of my house, the local law enforcement had no clue what was happening. I think they issued evacuation orders and then rescinded them at least twice for my neighborhood. The block behind me was flooded and the ball park a block in the other direction had 3 foot catfish in it. We had people that were rescued by boat, and we had caskets washing down river (no recently dead for us -- instead it was the 100 year dead we had floating). Yes, there were low income people that were flooded, but there were also businesses and nice homes that were flooded too. Here just like in NO, there were people blaming anyone they could blame. Reports of looting and people cruising the streets looking for trouble.

 

I think the sheer numbers of people that were involved in NO was what kept it in the media so frequently. I am sure the FEMA trailers will show up in the Midwest where they are needed, and likely FEMA and the RED Cross will be helping people relocate from shelters to hotels, and then into slightly more permanent temporary housing. You got to let the water go down, before you can start rebuilding. Clean up has already started in the more northern flood areas. Help came to my rural area of the south, and I am sure it will come to the Midwest.

 

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