A Shrinking World Series
‘We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring.’ —Brian Pierce, meteorologist, National Weather Service.
Mississippi river surges over at least 23 levees and another 30 barriers are at risk, as the Midwest floods move south.
In 1993, devastating floods, sweeping down Missouri and Mississippi rivers, surged levees and destroyed communities from St. Louis to northern Louisiana.
Mississippi River floodwaters engulf a farm about 15 miles north Quincy, Ill. after the south portion of the Indian Graves levee breached. (Tribune photo by Michael Tercha / June 18, 2008). Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!
“They all told us, `The levees are good. You can go ahead and build,”‘ said Parks, who did not buy flood coverage because her bank no longer required it. “We had so much confidence in those levees.”
“People put all their hopes in those levees, and when they do fail, the damage is catastrophic,” said Paul Osman, the National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for Illinois. “New Orleans is the epitome; a lot of those people didn’t even realize they were in a floodplain until the water was up to their roofs.”
“We reported to the president in ’94 that the levee system was in disarray, the levees were not high enough to take care of any potential problem. People didn’t understand their flood risk and there wasn’t good co-ordination across federal, state and local governments,” said Gerald Galloway, a professor of engineering and flood control expert.
“The same thing applies today,” Galloway said. “It’s amazing that in the face of [Hurricane] Katrina and now this particular challenge that we continue to relearn the same lessons.”
Galloway’s recommendations to improve the levee system were basically ignored. He said that he’s experiencing much the same response now from officials as in 1993.
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