Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Great Floods of Iowa and New Orleans Contrasted

This will not be an oversimplified "right wing" analysis as to the differences in human events surrounding the great flood of New Orleans in 2005 compared to the great flooding in Iowa that is happening right now. From my readings both "right and left" have it wrong and are expressing the biased views that lead them to a certain predetermined end.

On the right there has been some references to race as if the perponderance of Black folks in and of itself is the cause for the differentiated outcomes. This doesn't stand as there was a good number of White folks who were caught up in the very same situation. Though no doubt the majority of huddled masses were Black - the White folks who were left in the same vulnerable state where just as stranded.

On the left I have heard repeated claims of "apples and orange" differences between the two situations but many of them have not bothered to detail the distinction. Because THEY SAY it is different it is so. Of the ones who do attempt to put forth an explanation they refer to the "time to prepare" as being the key difference between these two incidents. Upon deeper inspection I must reject this as an answer just as well.

Most people point to the Friday evening briefing that George W. Bush received as being the start of the clock for the warning for New Orleans. This is preposterous. First of all - how many times have you heard a president of the United States rather than the governor or mayor give an EVACUATION ORDER for a city? It doesn't happen. This is not their official sanction to do so without the permission of the state.

So what is the answer?
The answer from my perspective is that all of the difference of the world is seen not in the 96 hours from the breach of the levee walls in New Orleans to the point at which the federal response kicked in with full bore. Instead it is more interesting to note what was done during the 236,000 hours between Hurricane Betty and Hurricane Katrina. The people of New Orleans new in advance that they sat inside of a serious flood zone. This knowledge based on centuries of breached levees should have warned them of the power of the mightiest water way in North America which seeks to achieve a level of equilibrium between the containers that for its waters upward rather than outward per the wishes of man and the forces of nature that says that these man made objects must be strong enough to resist such an imposing force. Over the centuries it has been Mississippi River 20, Man 0. When the might river flexes - man loses all of the time.

Water weighs 62.42796 pounds per cubic foot. Anything that man creates must be able to withstand this weigh and the force that the momentum of moving water asserts upon the structures built to contain it.

In my view New Orleans is a plot of land that is in a manicured state because man has built flood control structures to prevent water from going where gravity and equilibrium wishes it to go.

The key difference is that the people and principalities who were fully aware of the conditions upon which New Orleans was in - decided to both ignore the impending threat that these people were allowed to live within and to outsource their concerns to the larger federal government that has far more parcels of land to focus on in general than this one specific area. With all of that said - flood control on the Mississippi river is the largest single expenditure made by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Please keep in mind as well that many of the towns in Iowa are some distance away from the Mississippi River. They are experiencing a 500 year flood at present and thus a major exception to the rule of nature's order.

I have point out previously the notion of referring to the levees as "the Federal Government Levees". This is cute for the sake of getting ones point across but it also casts a shadow upon the level of consciousness that is present among the operatives as to just how much they have "Turned their problems over to [strike]Jesus[/strike] the Federal government" rather than being on point with regard to the importance of their own management or at least awareness of all that threatens them.

During these 236,000 hours in question clearly a more EFFECTIVE evacuation plan should have been rendered. Just imagine the differentiated results if every head of household was expected to maintain an inflatable raft in their own places of residency after having knowledge that many parts of New Orleans is a flood zone? The 4 days wait on dry land for a rescue would have turned into a water based transport to some land that is connected with the continental United States and thus an easier rescue would have been at hand.

Drilling down to the people - of course the mentality between property owners and consumers of residential units could not be more different. The people staying behind in Iowa to place sandbags around their vital property are expressing their knowledge that all that they possess will be saved by their own actions.

New Orleans, with parts starting out being 25 feet below sea level had no chance to wage such a fight. One would have to pile sand bags higher than their own houses to stand a chance at fending off the flood waters. Thus once again we must focus on the condition upon which the people were place in in the first place and not just the resulting outcomes which are different.

If indeed the situation in Iowa which is 500 years in interval has shifted to being 5 years in the making their housing patterns and their choice of flood control mechanisms must change to meet this new threat. At the same time - the city of New Orleans has known about their threat for centuries. Now it is time to adopt public policies that seek to reduce the level of threat that these people who are in a known flood plane face.


doctorj2u said...

Did that make you feel better? Would you like the truth now? They are called the federal levees because the port is considered so important to the commerce of the US, the federal government CONTROLS them all. They are not only for flood control but to keep the river fast and deep so silt doesn't build up and river traffic is not stopped. It is also the reason we are losing coast. The silt of the river is dumped off the continental shelf instead of rebuilding land in the delta. Local governemnt, more than a year after the storm,frustrated with the lack of response from the Corps of Engineers, decided they would do the work themselves. The Corps told them that if they TOUCHED the levees they would be arrested at gun point. So they are called the federal levees because that is what they are. 350miles of them. If you think a city, a poor city at that, has the resources to do that, you are sadly mistaken. And as to your picture choice - what would you like those people to be doing? The disaster had happened. Sandbag what? They were trapped by 6 feet of water. The food, water, and medicine had run out. If they were able to leave the Superdome, where were they to go? The only way out of the city was the Mississippi River Bridge and it was closed off by armed guards, afraid that the thugs would loot because rumors were running rampid. Were their bad people in New Orleans? Sure. Like there are in EVERY urban area. But people like you paint with a broad brush. I have seen heroism beyond your comprehension in the last three years. Government on all levels has been pretty much absent the last three years. For months and months, there was no garbage removal, cleaning of parks and streets. The trash was overwelming because people would trickle back and gut their homes. It was a constant supply of debris blown to the winds. There wasn't even mail for 5 or 6 months. You run a business without mail. But New Orleanians came back on fought on their own for the very life of the city. All the while, conservative radio spewing lies to cover the butt of an administration that failed miserably. The joke now is that the "allocated" money is FINALLY making it to the city after the citizens themselves have already made the city livable. We will end up having a city that is better physically than it was before. Mentally, we are a wounded people. Truthfully, there was only ONE light in our tragedy and that is the volunteers from all over the world that cared enough to come help us in our battle. They are ANGELS and we can never thank them enough. They brought HOPE with them. That is our story. What happened in New Orleans was a TRAGEDY. What is happening in Iowa is a TRAGEDY. Go do something to help. That is what they need. And try to stop dissing a city that has already suffered enough.
Go educate yourself as to citizen action and levees at

Constructive Feedback said...


Can I condense what you said?

[quote]They are not only for flood control but to keep the river fast and deep so silt doesn't build up and river traffic is not stopped. It is also the reason we are losing coast.[/quote]

Think about it.
IF the levees were built to speed the flow of the rivers and thus carry silt down stream THEN doesn't reason hold that ABSENT THE LEVEES (or ones that were engineered to not speed up the river) the sediment that would be collecting would DESTROY New Orleans and any other population center that was constructed close to the river?

You can't have it both ways dude.

I am ONLY arguing that THESE PEOPLE ARE BEING PLACED IN THE PATHWAY OF DANGER. Their land is already below sea level AND the levees - man made - have constantly proven to be no match for the most powerful waterway in North America.

Tell me how exactly I am 'dissing a city that needs help'?

It is the SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE who are more important than the city.

If they are in a known flood plain and the place floods, killing people and destroying their property this is not mother nature's fault this is MAN'S FAULT for ignoring the obvious.