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.