Little Katrina?

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disasters, natural and unnatural

Iowa has been slammed lately — killer tornadoes and now floods. The worst may be yet to come, if weather reports are correct.

I’ve been thinking of the Mississippi floods of 1993. I was living in New Jersey then, but the floodwaters covered parts of Missouri that I knew very well (near the southernmost dot on this map). The house my family lived in when I was a small child was, I was told, under water. Today there’s an empty field where a neighborhood of neat frame houses, vegetable gardens, and swing sets used to be.

Some people I knew in New Jersey weren’t terribly sympathetic to the Midwesterners. Why did those idiots live near a river, anyway? They didn’t comprehend the enormity of the flooding. There were places underwater that were no where near a river and had never flooded before, either in memory or, I’m pretty sure, recorded history.

Anyway, there are places in New Jersey that flood every ten to fifteen years, and it always catches people off guard, as if such a thing had never happened before.

Right now, I don’t believe a repeat of the 1993 floods is expected, but I don’t believe it has been ruled out, either. Depends on the weather.

Although the danger isn’t over, some righties already are thumping their chests and proclaiming the inherent superiority of Iowa over New Orleans. One writes,

The thing is, though, the people of eastern Iowa seem to be stepping up in the Iowa stubborn way. I have seen any number of man-on-the-street interviews, and nobody is complaining. They all seem to be working to solve their problem, which is not surprising because Iowans do not complain about tragedy. They complain about hot weather and dry weather, but not tragedy. And I have looked for reports of looting and come up empty so far. …

…In Iowa there is a 500 year flood, but the people are not paralyzed, whining, or looting. There will be no massive relief effort from around the world, and nobody will step up to help Iowans except for other Iowans. Yet years from now, there will be no Iowans still in FEMA camps.

From today’s Des Moines Register: “State officials promise aggressive push for federal money, other aid.”

BTW, don’t read the comments to the rightie post linked above unless you have a very strong stomach. Truly, the Ku Klux Klan is alive and well and on the Web.

As bad as the Iowa flood must be, it doesn’t compare to New Orleans. People who draw easy parallels are idiots, just as people who drew parallels between Katrina and 9/11 were idiots. Not only the extent and suddenness (or not) of the flooding, and the geological complications, but also the circumstances of the people living in the flooded areas are entirely different.

Even so, there are echoes of New Orleans in some Iowa news stories.

An estimated 24,000 Cedar Rapids residents were driven from their homes, including Lisa Armstrong – who wept in a shelter while watching television footage of a boat saving her as the waters flooded her home.

“I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was, and we should have got out when we were told to leave,” said Armstrong, one of about 150 evacuees moved to the gym at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids.

As in New Orleans, when the floods are gone there will be at least a few people who have lost their homes and their jobs and who lack the resources to start over without assistance from somebody. Oh, and there will be stories about how many people didn’t have flood insurance. However, I suspect the flooded areas of Iowa have much lower population density than New Orleans, and people won’t be trapped there for days with no way out, so post-flood Iowa won’t be as awful as post-Katrina New Orleans. Nor will Iowa get the same media coverage, so you may never hear about the hardships to come.

And a rightie myth will grow that those Iowans put their lives back together in no time, with nary a complaint.

Iowans do have one huge advantage over New Orleans — no Karl Rove.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Donna  •  Jun 15, 2008 @11:40 am

    Just last weekend I drove the Gulf coast of Mississippi and into New Orleans [hadn't been in NO since 1970]. It boggles the senses, three years later, to see the devastation that remains from Hurricane Katrina.
    In Mississippi, the new ‘rich folk’ homes along Hwy 90 are strange looking, all built up atop coumns, with only garages at ground level. I suppose the idea is that another hurricane would wash through the space between those columns, and leave the high perched homes intact……but, judging from the many broken up and now useless piers extending out into water from the beaches, I’m not confident that this new building style is really a protection.

    In New Orleans itself and surrounding parishes, it is tragic to see so much that still needs to be cleaned up or repaired. We drove across the bridge into Gretna where the now-deceased vile Sheriff Lee stationed armed cops to prevent hurricane victims from crossing into his parish. So, I literally found myself driving through Gretna with my middle finger extended, which is pretty futile as an lame attempt to register my continuing reaction to that bit of Gretna inhumanity. Then, I came to my better senses and changed my reaction from ‘the finger’ to an open palm and prayer for the souls of these folks who elected Lee.
    Also drove through St Bernard’s Parish, or about 15 miles of it’s main road, with one side trip down a residential street, I did not want to make residents uncomfortable seeing an out-of-state licensed car with some drive-by gawkers looking out car windows at their misfortunes. Yes, there are homes rehabbed and once again inhabited next to homes boarded up and apparently abandoned, probably for lack of resources, or dead owners. Yes, there are FEMA trailers in front yards, as well as piles of debris in many front yards [almost three years later!!!].
    But, I have to say that the hardest thing to take home from that trip was seeing so many homes that still have those painted circles on their front doors or walls, especially to read the dates of how tragically delayed were those authority checks for live or dead bodies…..twelve days, twenty days and so forth.

    I am so sorry for Iowa, and especially Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids, all of which are places I have often been to for various reasons over the past two decades. I was canvassing in Cedar Rapids last fall for Obama…..it is hard to imagine that the entire downtown was flooded. And to see the Student Union at Iowa City sandbagged, but losing against the rising river…. That is often where I parked to walk uphill to other University buildings for meetings.
    Last fall, I drove 3-4 thousand miles of Iowa’s two lane roads. I sort of fell in love with rural Iowa, but especially the rise and fall of the two-lane east-west highways as they crossed the many north south rivers in southern Iowa. And especially, I fell in love with the Loess Hills topographic region, the locale where that tornado just days ago hit the Boy Scout Camp, killing four and injuring dozens.

    I feel sort of numb after the trip to the Gulf and all the news and pictures out of Iowa. It is beyond me why some folks would want to sit in their above-it-all perches like those continually inhumane right wingers do and make judgmental pronouncements and comparisons about victims of natural disasters. Do you suppose that the righties need their blanket judgments in the same way that the cartoon character Linus needs his blanket? They are so freaking immature, not to mention that they are spoiled screeching brats to boot.

  2. moonbat  •  Jun 15, 2008 @12:23 pm

    I’m presently writing this from a motel room in SE Iowa, in Ottumwa, home to the fictional Radar O’Reilly of MASH tv fame. The river flowing through this town is swollen and in places is beyond its banks, with the crest expected today or tomorrow. People here are telling me it’s a 100 or a 500 year flood. And yet life is going on – the town’s Applebee’s was jammed last night, and the adjacent Ottumwa 8 movie theater was packed. Nearby the cops had closed off the road, due to flooding. Locals were wandering in and out of the closed area. There is an undercurrent of apprehension, and a bit of awe at the historical proportions of this event, and yet life is going on – there isn’t any panic or mass devastation.

    There is a lot of grist here for righties’ “don’t need no gummit help” BS, and Iowans do roll with stuff like this, like the undulations of their beautiful prairie landscape. But this is in no way in even the same league as Hurricane Katrina.

  3. Preston  •  Jun 15, 2008 @1:03 pm

    It was NOT Sheriff Harry Lee who posted police on the bridge to prevent people from New Orleans crossing to the West Bank. It was the Gretna sheriff. Harry Lee was Sheriff of Jefferson Parish. Gretna is an independent city with its own police force.

  4. Donna  •  Jun 15, 2008 @5:14 pm

    Preston, thanks for that. Now, I am confused and will need to look more at this. Is Gretna in Lee’s Parish??? And, if so, which ‘sheriff’ has the final authority?

  5. Preston  •  Jun 15, 2008 @10:07 pm

    Donna, the late Sheriff Harry Lee and his successors are responsible for patrolling all un-incorporated areas of Jefferson Parish. The Mississippi river divides the Parish as it does with many others. Gretna is an incorporated town/city on the west band of the river with its own police department. At the time of Katrina, Arthur Lawson was the Gretna Police Chief and Ronnie Harris was the Mayor of Gretna. It was they and not Harry Lee who decided that they needed to prevent the criminal element from spreading out from New Orleans into the outlying areas.

  6. Herb  •  Jun 16, 2008 @1:18 am

    Ha! That’s funny you mention the comments section. I did a little trolling in there last night, calling them out on their contempt for Katrina victims. Chumps.

  7. Dara Lewis  •  Jun 18, 2008 @9:18 am

    Preston – What they decided is to do is turn people who were trying to escape a natural catastrophe away. How dare you assume that people who were trying to escape from the after effects of a hurricane were criminals? These people were in bad shape and, I believe, some of them had children with them. They were and (those who managed to survive this treatement) still are human beings who were rejected by their neighbors!

  8. jame  •  Jun 18, 2008 @7:16 pm

    Preston, thank you for setting the record straight here about Harry Lee. Thanks also to moonbat for saying that this is nowhere near a Katrina-size catastrophe.
    It’s nice that people aren’t kept away from their homes by the National Guard. That way they can go in to save as much as they can.



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