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.