Empty Lots

I honestly don’t see how we can’t be looking at a situation in which folks are just not allowed to rebuild in certain spots. Just think of it this way. Which event do you think various government folks thought was more likely–a thousand year flood or the Wolf Creek Dam failing?

Of course, it’s no guarantee that just because we saw the more extraordinary event, that we’ll see the dam fail. But, as Samantha pointed out to me last week, a lot of the water from the flood went right where the Wolf Creek Dam failure maps predicted it would go. If you can look at a PDF, check this out. Some of the houses in blue have flooded before. They flooded during the flood, and they will flood if the Wolf Creek dam goes. I’m not making an argument about whether folks should be allowed to rebuild where they are, lord knows I’m not qualified to make that decision, nor would I want to.

I’m just saying, it wouldn’t surprise me if folks were not allowed to rebuild in places like this–where it is known to flood, proven to flood, and homes are destroyed. Why let folks rebuild where we know they’d be affected should the more likely disaster not be diverted?

And that’s going to be really, really hard on people.

Anyway, here are the Wolf Creek Maps, if you feel like breaking your heart in this way, today.

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3 thoughts on “Empty Lots

  1. Was this your take on New Orleans as well? I mean the city should never have built anything that required levees in the first place in my opinion, but rebuilding them after Katrina is just a bad idea if you ask me.

  2. Jim, is there some part of “I’m not making an argument about whether folks should be allowed to rebuild where they are” that wasn’t clear?

    Cities along rivers have levees. Rivers flood. Sometimes the levees fail.

    My opinion is thus: it’s not my business. And my heart goes out to people who are going to be told they can’t live where they think they live. I’ve had friends told that very thing and it’s not pretty, even if, objectively, it’s necessary.

    As long as the river comes through New Orleans, New Orleans will flood. But let’s not forget that it has been, since the 1950s, unnatural for the river to flow through New Orleans. We spend a great deal of time and money to keep the main branch of the Mississippi going through New Orleans and not down the Atchafalaya, but these discussions are always about how stupid people are for wanting to live where they live and not about how stupid it is to keep forcing the river through New Orleans. (Not that I think it’s stupid for the main channel of the river to continue to run through New Orleans, I’m just trying to illustrate how often these conversations are about how individuals have fucked up and not how people get caught up in forces beyond their control.)

    Rivers have levees and the levees are a mixed bag. They make the river safer to live next to until they don’t.

    But what we’ve done to our rivers requires us to either continue to manage them or to give up living along them. Considering how economically dependent we are on river traffic, folks aren’t going to abandon settlements along rivers.

    So, we have to manage them. And that choice is a mixed bag, just like the other choice would be.

    I’ve moved enough to know that it’s a hard choice–to lose so much, to leave behind the house you’ve come to love, the yard where your kids played, the trees your dogs are buried under.

    It’s terrible when you have no choice.

  3. We spend a great deal of time and money to keep the main branch of the Mississippi going through New Orleans and not down the Atchafalaya, but these discussions are always about how stupid people are for wanting to live where they live and not about how stupid it is to keep forcing the river through New Orleans.

    Oh, but forcing the river through the deep waters of the Port Of New Orleans more directly serves intracoastal commerce. We all know that interfering with nature on behalf of business is a worthwhile investment.* Allowing the Atchafalaya Wetlands to recover just doesn’t show the same snazzy sort of dividendable income.

    Bienville might have not had the best eye for siting a city that would grow to the extent that it did, a couple of centuries down the road, but a major presence at the mouth of the Mississippi? C’mon. How many ways can you say “strategic?”

    Then again, if we’re talking about natural hazards, I know of a number of US cities that might well be candidates for wholesale decommission and evacuation. San Francisco, St. Louis, and Miami all spring to mind. And let’s just close the entire lower half of the state of California during Santa Ana-driven wildfire season. Christ.

    The thing that strikes me about the ACE maps you linked to, B… and I’ve looked at them before… is just how well that the inundation pattern for the 1000 year event* maps to the Wolf Creek contingency. Scary, really. How much planning had Middle Tennessee done for a “no one could have predicted” outcome from upstream? Very little.

    * Of course, maybe if the Corps of Engineers wouldn’t have built that underutilized flood funnel called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, Katrina’s storm surge might not have overwhelmed the city’s flood mitigation strategies. Pretty hard to say, since some reports i’ve read say that the storm swell from Ponchartrain was probably only a Category 1 or Category 2.

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