Climate Change Weather

Floods. Again.

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Ike continues to rain destruction down in its path. It’s good to hear the storm surges weren’t as bad along the Gulf, but they were bad enough. Hopefully, though, loss of life will be minimal.

Ike just passed through the St. Louis area with both wind and rain. A lot of rain that combined with the remnants of Lowell from the Pacific. Sad as it is to say, we’re again looking at major flooding along the Meramec, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers.

This will be our third major flooding event in six months.

Climate Change Places

Katrina comparisons

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It is difficult to be sympathetic to people in Iowa and Missouri when you read some webloggers who gloat about how “well” their state did compared to how well the people did in New Orleans after Katrina. I think it’s time to take a closer look at events; to get some perspective on both events.

Early estimates put the number of damaged or lost homes in Iowa at about 8,000 to 10,000 homes, based on the number of displaced people. I estimate from the numbers I’ve heard in the last few weeks that Missouri will end up with about 500 to 1000 damaged or destroyed homes.

The number of homes destroyed by Katrina varies widely, but I’ve seen estimates from 275,000 to over 850,000 homes, many of them in New Orleans. In fact, 80% of the city was impacted, and only 45% of the New Orleans population has been able to return to New Orleans, years after the storm.

I couldn’t find numbers of people killed in the recent floods here in the midwest, but from an old estimate, we lost about 30 people. Over 1836 people died from Katrina, and the long term impact of the flood could result in thousands more dying.

Though we like to think floods along the Mississippi are sudden, this one was not. We had all the indications of a bad flood building up along the Mississippi beginning in April. The people impacted by New Orleans had three days, four tops, to prepare.

The people in Missouri and Iowa were not cut off and isolated. Most had neighbors and friends who helped. The people in New Orleans were shoved into a coliseum or left marooned on damaged bridges, as the surrounding communities would not let them leave the city. Why? Because rumors talked about roving bands of thugs shooting everything in sight; rumors proven to be untrue, but still persisting in places like Wikipedia—an article I nominate for being the worst edited, most inaccurate, and outdated article in Wikipedia. These people were left without water and food, in intense heat for days. No comfortable Red Cross shelters for them.

River floods like the recent flooding in the Midwest impact across class lines, especially after the federal buy outs resulting from the the 1993 flood. The flood in New Orleans impacted on some of the poorest people in this country. People who were then bused as far away as Salt Lake City, and cut adrift.

This recent flooding is terrible, and I don’t want to downplay the awfulness of the event, or the extent of the damage and the help that will be needed to rebuild in Iowa and Missouri. At the same time, it angers me to see those pontificating in how “better” we handled the flood than the folks handled Katrina in New Orleans and the rest of the south. Especially when the purpose for such comparisons is politically, and even racially, motivated.


Climate Change Weather

Helping Hand

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Update Unfortunately, there was one levee outside of Winfield we couldn’t save.

second update Steve Ley, one of the two men in the photograph in the post, also wrote of today’s experience.

third update The Salvation Army has set up a localized fund to help flood victims in Missouri.

I wish I could say I acquitted myself well sandbagging today, but I really was a wuss.

I arrived at the high school in Winfield a little after 2 to find a bustling sandbagging operation underway. However, rather than dig in, we new volunteers had to wait in line to get a badge with picture. After over half an hour standing in the sun, the powers that be evidently decided they were in danger of losing volunteers because they let those who had ID start work.

Later, I found that the place did have prisoners from a local prison helping, so I’m assuming the security was related to them. Otherwise, our country has gotten a little too paranoid if we’re worried about protecting piles of dirt.

I partnered immediately with a man who was on his second day of sandbagging and a young woman (Breanna, who said hi in comments) who lived in the local area, both of whom had extraordinary energy, as well as being enjoyable to be around. I didn’t get a picture of the man, but I did Breanna. Behind her were twins who also partnered with us when they weren’t hauling bags to pallets.


Next to us were two gentlemen who also had come up from St. Louis, Dogtown to be exact. They were a great deal of fun, and we found that we shared a lot in common, including careers in tech, and possibly even people who we mutually knew in the tech/online world. Talk about small world. I also think they bagged about 10 bags for every one I helped fill. Still, I like to think that there’s a levee somewhere, just about to fail when one last sandbag is placed on the top, keeping that last drop of water out. And I’ll have filled that bag.

Well, maybe I am being a tad fanciful.


Following is a wider view of the operation. As you can see from the mounds of sandbags, people came to work, and work they did.


Tonight I’m sunburned, with a headache that just won’t go away. However, I think I can drag my butt out tomorrow, early in the morning this time, and see if I can’t fill that last bag that saves that last levee.

In the meantime, the American Red Cross is out of money. Our country has had some difficult times in the last few years, people aren’t donating as much, and the result is that the American Red Cross is now having to borrow in order to help the folks in the Midwest. Not to mention that we’re only now heading into hurricane season.

I know you’re broke, I’m broke, we’re all broke and gas and food prices are horrid, but if you can see your way to dropping a few dollars into the Red Cross bin, you’d be helping a lot of people who have lost everything.

If the Red Cross is not your bag, and you want to help a more local organization, the Missouri Humane Society is known nationally for its pet recovery and sanctuary during weather events such as floods. The organization was in Iowa rescuing pets, and now is working to help people in Illinois and Missouri not only by actively rescuing pets trapped in the floods, but also by taking in pets for those who have no place to keep them.

If you can find your way to help out a little, I promise I’ll bag more sand. I’ll even name a bag after you. Who knows, maybe yours will be the bag that stopped the drop of water that saved the levee that saved the town.