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hops_scout

"No Flood of Emotion"

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I live in fire country. 6 years ago, we got evacuated in the largest wildfire in Colorado history. The fire stopped about 2 miles from the Blansten homestead. Since then we have done fire mitigation to reduce our chances, but to tell you the truth, the next big fire will probably take my home. Will I cry about it? Not to anyone else, just my own misfortune.

 

I have a hard time finding sympathy for those who rebuild in flood plains. And if they do, why don't they put their homes and businesses on pilings that exceed the highest historical flood level?

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Random thoughts:

 

* When Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans had a population of almost 1/2 million people. It's not easy to evacuate a 1/2 million people out of a city, especially a city with limited access in to and out of the city. Also, a "mandatory" evacuation isn't mandatory in the sense we tend to think the word means. There is no criminal or civil penalty for failing to evacuate. Ultimately, no government - local, state or federal, can force you to leave your home if you decide to ride out a storm or other disaster. All calling a mandatory evacuation does is absolve the government from liability should one choose to ignore it.

 

* Reality check - New Orleans survived Hurricane Katrina. It was the unexpected later failure of the levies, which happened without much warning, that made Katrina memorable in the history of New Orleans.

 

* Reality check #2 - The number of school buses that were caught in the flood was so negligable that it wouldn't have made much of a dent at all in any evacuations. The average school bus holds 60 adults - even cramming the buses with up to 100 people, it would not have made much of a difference at all - there weren't thousands of buses stranded by the flood, there were less than 200. And, those buses would not have been used in an initial evacuation anyway - the emergency plans New Orleans had, as inadequate as those plans were, reserved those buses for post-disaster transportation - and rightly so. Again, no one haad expected the levies to fail, especially since they seemed to have survived the hurricane itself.

 

* There is a media juxtaposition that I will never forget, nor will I ever forgive right wing media outlets like Fox News for being so blatantly racist and dishonest. There was a picture of a young, white couple, who looked like they were relatively affluent, showing them both wading waist deep through the flood waters pushing water bottles they had "justifiedly" liberated from an abandoned store in this dire time of need. That's right - liberated, not looted. The next day there was footage of some young black men gathering water and food from an abandoned store - except this time the right wing media called it looting (and there was no looting for big screen tv's and high end sneakers - that was a lie perpetrated by racist, right-wing commentators who didn't know what they were talking about). So apparently, it's ok to loot a store for food and water when you're white and affluent, but not if your black and poor. I say to that - balderdash - and shame on the media for perpetuating this disgraceful display of ignorance, and shame on anyone who accepted such racist distortions as fact.

 

* During my early 20's, I volunteered for my municipalities emergency services and disaster agency. One of our tasks was to take charge in setting up and running emergency evacuation centers, so I got federal certification as a shelter manager. Our City had some supplies on hand (cots, blankets, food and water) but not enough to supply and entire city of 22,000 people with everything needed. One of the keys of the plan was that we would take over the grocery and convenience stores in town if neccessary for needed supplies - and would request that people coming to the shelter bring whatever water and blankets they could safely carry (if any) with them. So yes, it's unreasonable for anyone to expect a village, town, or city to have an emergency shelter stocked at all times with all the supplies needed for a multi-day stay - let alone a shelter holding 10,000 people. The shelter would be stocked with just enough to get it going, then the authorities would start essentially ransacking (looting) stores for more supplies. BTW - in New Orleans, the authorities were doing just that - they were also breaking into stores to carry out as much water and other needed supplies as they could - but even that will last just so long.

 

* Flooding is a regular occurrence in rivers in the midwest. This, more than anything, explains the preparedness of small town and medium city midwestern states - we've lived through it many times so we know what to generally expect. And we know how to recover from them.

 

 

 

 

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"and there was no looting for big screen tv's and high end sneakers - that was a lie perpetrated by racist, right-wing commentators who didn't know what they were talking about"

 

Sure. Okay. Yeah.

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This is not the forst time that New Orleans has flooded (hence the need for levies). It ios a cummunity that lives next to the ocen BELOW sea level, you would think they would have as much incentive and opportunity to be prepared for the floods as the midwesterners.

 

I think that this shows the great weakness that comes from allowing yourself to part of a community that is dependent on the government, as compared to a community that depends largely on personal responsibility.

 

The farmers and other people in the midwest rural community did not wait for the government to help them and did not particularly appreciate the government when they came. They took care of themselves and their neighbors before, during, and after the emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CP:

 

I submit there were enough boxcars in the yards of the various railroads serving New Orleans to deal with evacuation.

 

Governments also have the ability to declare martial law and clear an area. Ray Nagin and Gov Whatshername (mary) Landreau failed their citizens when they chose not to take such measures.

 

Instead, we got the Superdome...

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While hops makes a good point, I think that it can be isolated down to the Katrina storm alone. All the news was New Orleans....flood....Take a look at the Gulf coast. I used to live down there. New Orleans got wet from Katrina. The Mississippi Gulf Coast pretty much didn't exist after it. Yet we never heard much about that did we? All the news could talk about was New Orleans flood!

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"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."

 

OGE, in 1852 the federal government commissioned a study which reported in great detail, precisely what you suggest above. Unfortunately, Charles Ellet's conclusions were largely ignored and the system of levees and 'control' structures was begun.

No, actually the levees had been begun long before in 1717 by the French. And the Corps assumed management of all of the lower Mississippi. What a mess!

There are many reasons to build levees. But most of the time, we don't invest the resources until an event has already demonstrated the need (a flood in this case). So I am in sympathy with those who would deny insurance to people who build in flood plains (to which I would add beach developments). Beavah calls them 'morons' but I suggest an alternative....they know that whatever they build will be covered by our tax dollars so they have no incentive to exercise good sense.

 

At the same time, I also sympathize with Calico's observations of media bias and the rest for the Katrina disaster. If anyone was covered with glory as a result, I would like to know who it was. (yes, I know there are those Bush toadies out there who think "his shxx don't stink", I'm trying to stay away from fantasy land)

But in fairness, New Orleans should not realistically expect to return to its former status, and it won't. Yes, for a variety of good reasons, the port should exist. But much of the rest of the city should be returned to nature because no matter what measures we take today, nature IS going to claim it eventually.

And the same lessons apply upstream. Build in a low area, expect to lose property...eventually.

 

Edited part: interesting case in point -

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/05/us/05cajun.html?th&emc=th

(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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You know, I often have wondered if we took the time to design, then spent the money wasted on "disaster after-the-fact" on its completion, why they could not build canals or underground spillways away from the large rivers that would take the water to areas that could use it. If we can bring water from Northern to Southern California via an aquaduct, why not from Missouri to say Georgia, with stops along the way to replenish aquafirs? Probably all kinds of challenges, but just seems that we have so much water going where we don't want it, but there are areas that could use it. But, I am not an engineer. But, you would think that the cost eventually would be outweighed by the benefits.

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Ahhh,

 

But now you're talking water rights, and if you think I'm going to tell my Missouri legislators to be altruistic and fund other peoples' water needs, you have another think coming.

 

Having grown up in the Peeple's Republik of Kalifornia, I can tell you all their water issues are internal to the state, and there are still fights going on. Los Angeles recently conceded the battle on the water coming from the Owens River, and there is now recharge of what had become Owens Dry Lake. That was a memorable court battle!

 

There is a theory of history that says as much as the battles over the millenia in the Middle East have been about religion, they've also been about ... water.

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let it never be said I am afraid to evaluate my position.

 

A very long time ago, like 1953, my father bought a house in the western suburbs of Chicago. Some of the Chicago area people may be familiar with it. Wood Dale, on Irving Park (Il Rte 19) between Itasca and Bensenville, DuPage County.

 

It was a great neighborhood, many mature oaks were left standing as well as hickory trees and it had a County Forest preserve at the end. A great place to grow up. Across the street the lots were bordered by Salt Creek, a waterway familiar to many in the western suburbs. Salt creek drains the northwestern suburbs of Chicago and in the 50's and 60's the northwest suburbs were virtually non-exisitent, instead huge fields of corn and soybeans were grown along the flight paths leading to O'Hare Field. Then things changed. Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg began unprecidented growth. The WoodField Shopping center which was the largest indoor mall in the country when it opened, opended within a mile of the creek. Hundreds of acres of farmland which used to soak in the rain was paved over. Salt Creek became the drainage system of the Northwest suburbs, and used Salt Creek to drain it into the western suburbs. Within a few years having the creek flow over its banks stopped being a rare instance to expected every time it rained and then came real devastating floods. Today, most of the houses on the creek side of the street I grew up are gone and the property is a city park. I do remember people saying then that they had no sympathy for people who built in a flood plain, but most of the houses were built long before the area became a flood plain. We didnt build in a flood plain, the people upstream created a flood plain. So, I guess in retrospect, if you live in an area which historically is not flood prone, and upstream developments turn your area into a flood plain I can see that as different than building in an area which is known to be a flood plain. Communities that build higher and stronger levees to push the water south need to have insurance, not just for them, but for the consequences of their actions downstream.

 

Oh boy, this whole thing could get quite complicated. My right to do with property as I see fit and the effects on people downstream whose land has been in their families for generations who never had a proplem.

 

this living together in a community is a real bite

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"this living together in a community is a real bite"

OGE, while I'm not very sure what that is supposed to mean, I do understand what you wrote prior to that...I've seen it many places around the country. My frustration is aimed at those who build in places that we already KNOW to be flood-prone. Actually, I'm ok with their decisions to build, but not with having to bail them out as a result.

 

But what you described is a situation where regional planning and regulation can actually protect the community. In my region, such has been almost completely absent in the past, witness the obscene growth and sprawl of Atlanta. And now the problem is, again, water - specifically lack of it.

 

Closer to home, I am struck by the irony of communities in which no such regulation exists because of past desire to do anything individuals see fit to their property - but which now scream for regulation of others in the watershed because of rising water. I wonder if they understand the choice they've made, or the responsibility for the consequences.

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Um, folks everybody lives in a flood plain. It is just characterized by higher or lower periods of flooding. In West Alton, the houses are on stilts and only the poor live there. It seems to flood almost annually.

 

The folks are not stupid. Many high priced homes are right on the beaches in hurricane country. If the federal government didn't insure those houses, the rich would relocate.

 

Adding levees doesn't do anything to prevent flooding. It "redistributes" the flooding and makes it worse somewhere else - i.e. by increasing flow rate.

 

We've (mankind) have drained the marshes/wetlands and put up dikes and levees and then cry foul when mother nature causes floods. Duh!

 

Now, can I mention global warming? :)

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OGE,

 

I know Salt Creek well. I grew up in Rolling Meadows - upstream from Wood Dale. Both the East Branch and the West Branch of Salt Creek flow through the city. The East and West branches of Salt Creek converge near the southern border of Rolling Meadows. The creek then flows through the Ned Brown Forest Preserve (aka Busse Woods). Because of flooding downstream, (and poor choices of where to build), a couple of reservoirs were built at Busse Woods to hold as much water as possible - now these reservoirs fishing lakes, where boats can be rented.

 

When Rolling Meadows was built in the 50's, from those rolling corn and bean fields (or much more likely, potato fields - that was actually the most common crop on farms in the Northwest Suburbs of Palatine, Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows and Schaumburg), the developer left wide swaths of land on either side of the East Branch undeveloped and donated most of it to the City as park district land, creating a mostly uninterrupted linear park system through the town. He knew better, way back then, to build in the flood plain - and he knew they were flood plains because he asked the farmers he bought the land from how far the creeks flooded. He was also thought a fool by other developers for leaving so much undeveloped land untouched. (BTW - he came from the "People's Republik of Kalifornia").

 

I grew up in a house at the edge of one of these parks - when the creek flooded, we would watch as the creek overflowed onto large swaths of the park land, creating a mini-lake (though with a fairly swift current) right outside the back yard. The homes by the west branch were mostly built much later, and fortunately for the homeowners, it has a deeper channel, so it does not usually flood, except in a few small areas where the only danger from flood damage is people's swing sets.

 

The biggest problem with development along Salt Creek was that most people (developers, town fathers, etc.) didn't recognize Salt Creek for what it really was, and it was ultimately a semantics problem. Back in the mid-1900's, we had a pretty good handle on how rivers flooded, and most rivers had at least rudimentary flood plain maps completed - but no one really gave much thought to those bodies of waters named creeks - the thinking was they didn't have flood plains. Unfortunately for the folks along Salt Creek, that meant there was little thought given to whether a flood plain existed for the creek. Had Salt Creek retained its original name - Little Des Plaines River - it may have led to different building rules in those towns lining the main branch of Salt Creek.

 

 

Just a little watershed history that I thought OGE might enjoy. Sorry if it bores anyone else.

 

Calico

 

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