Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Mississippi Flood, Cajun Country, and Decisions

"Arkansas Man Builds Moat, Levee Around Home to Hold Back Floodwaters", (May 15, 2011)

"An Arkansas man decided to ride out rising floodwaters in the South by building a moat and levee around his home.

"Russell Petty, 50, of Devalls Bluff, hired an excavator late last month to dig a moat and pile the dirt on an outside rim to form a levee, The New York Times reports.

"As the water levels of the nearby White River rose, the homes of Petty's neighbors became flooded. But Petty, ignoring a mandatory evacuation for Prairie County, kept his property dry as he coordinated efforts with neighbors to fortify the levee with more dirt and sandbags...."

Devalls Bluff, Arkansas, sounds like a nice place to live. More about the house and the moat:

Good Neighbors

"Neighbors 1, the Elements 0 (for Now)"
The New York Times (May 15, 2011)

"Muddy children stood in a human chain, passing sandbags to others who were two, three or four times their age. One volunteer was an exchange student from the Czech Republic. One man was in his 70s. Coolers of food, drinks and ice appeared, and no one knew where they had come from.

"Floods were drowning huge parts of the Midwest and the South, but the residents of Prairie County had decided that Russell Petty's house, at least, would stay dry - even if they needed flat-bottom boats to get to it.

"They fortified a moat and a levee, protective rings around the three-acre property that, once the nearby White River had crested, left Mr. Petty's house out of harm's way, like a castle in the English countryside. It stands as a symbol of one minor victory over the elements in a region suffering widespread hardships from tornadoes and floods.

" 'I don't think he wanted to put other people in the position of having to help him that way,' said William Saul, a friend of Mr. Petty's. 'He just didn't have a choice.'..."

The Lemming is glad to read that the central Minnesota town he's called home for over three decades isn't the only place with neighbors like Mr. Petty's. There may not be all that much "privacy" in small town America: but there are distinct 'up' sides, too. (privacy, see (January 8, 2011; small town America, see (November 2, 2009))

Back to the news:

Floodwall: "This One's Built Right..."

"Louisiana Countryside Braces for Floods as Morganza Spillway Opens"
AP, via (May 15, 2011)

"Over the next few days, water spewing through a Mississippi River floodgate will crawl through the swamps of Louisiana's Cajun country, chasing people and animals to higher ground while leaving much of the land under 10 to 20 feet of brown muck.

"The floodgate was opened Saturday for the first time in nearly four decades, shooting out like a waterfall, spraying 6 feet into the air. Fish jumped or were hurled through the white froth and what was dry land soon turned into a raging channel.

"The water will flow 20 miles south into the Atchafalaya Basin, and from there it will roll on to Morgan City, an oil-and-seafood hub and a community of 12,000....

"...The opening of the spillway diverted water from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and the numerous oil refineries and chemical plants along the lower reaches of the Mississippi. Shifting the water away from the cities eased the strain on levees and blunts the potential for flooding in New Orleans that could have been much worse than Hurricane Katrina.

"C.E. Bourg stopped by a hardware store in the shadow of the Morgan City floodwalls to buy grease for his lawnmower and paint -- items on his 'honey-do list.' Floodwaters came close to overtopping in 1973, but since then, they have been raised to 24 feet and aren't in danger of being overtaken.

"Bourg, an attorney, said he represented a worker who was injured on the 70s-era floodwall project and learned a lot about how they were built.

" 'I got a copy of the plans,' he said. 'This one's built right, unlike the ones in New Orleans.'..."

The Lemming sincerely hopes that the floodwall in question is built right - in fact as well as on paper.

Now, about that decision to divert water through an area that a few folks live in, in order to keep places that lots of folks live in from flooding. Also to keep a number of refineries from shutting down (we hope).

First, the Lemming is profoundly glad that deciding to flood folks living in the spillway isn't the Lemming's job. When there's this much water moving down one of the largest rivers on the planet - There isn't, in the Lemming's opinion, a 'nice' or 'pleasant' option for folks on the lower Mississippi.

Hard as this is on folks living in the spillway - and from what's in the news - it looks like diverting water so that two largish cities and several refineries don't get flooded makes sense. Maybe it's more accurate to say that diverting the water lowers the odds that New Orleans will flood again.

The Lemming is also aware of how easy it is to write that, living near the upper reaches of the Mississippi, on a low sandy ridge.

This year's Mississippi flooding has made it into international news:

Someone Has to Decide Who Gets Flooded

"Cajun homes face flooding in attempt to save New Orleans"
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Irish Times (May 16, 2011)

"Residents in swampy areas of Louisiana's Cajun country waited last night for the rising waters of the Mississippi to engulf their homes, after US army engineers opened a key floodgate in an attempt to save New Orleans from the river's worst flooding since 1927.

"Units from the corps of engineers opened up the first gate on a structure known as the Morganza spillway, sending about 280cu m of water per second into the Atchafalaya river basin.

"The Associated Press reported that 40 hectares were under 30cm (12in) of water after 30 minutes.

"It was the first time that the corps, which is in charge of managing the Mississippi flood controls, had had to resort to opening the spillway since 1973...."

That date stamp, May 16, 2011, is accurate. It's 9:45 p.m. Central, here in central Minnesota - but over in Ireland it's tomorrow already (UTC 2:45 a.m., May 16, 2011)

Again, this is not a good month for folks near the lower reaches of the Mississippi river.

'Big Oil' benefits, by the way. So to folks living in New Orleans.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that a conspiracy of Mardi Gras promoters and oil magnates is 'really' behind the decision to keep New Orleans (relatively) dry. The Lemming will get back to that idea.

Moving on.

Louisiana Refineries, a Flood, and Election Year

"Floodway opening a blessing for Louisiana refineries"
Kristen Hays, Reuters Africa (May 15, 2011)

"The opening of a key spillway to relieve flooding along the Mississippi River could create logistical headaches for big Gulf Coast refiners, but will likely spare the lion's share of the area's refining capacity from flooding danger.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Saturday opened the Morganza Spillway to channel water away from the Mississippi River and into the Atchafalaya River basin.

"That will take the floodwaters toward homes, farms, a wildlife refuge and a small oil refinery but avoid inundating New Orleans and Louisiana's capital Baton Rouge...."

Again: it's probably a good idea, in the Lemming's opinion, to divert water away from a couple of major cities and some refineries. On the other hand, this is not good news for folks who live in the spillway, or near it. At all.

Thankfully, finger-pointing hasn't started yet - but particularly with an election year coming up, the Lemming thinks it's likely to start around the time that the flood stops being an immediate problem.

The Lemming is also dealing with an early-summer cold, which might explain that dreary forecast.

Someone may even run on a platform that makes about as much sense as efforts to ban dihydrogen monoxide. (January 3, 2011)

Big Cheese, Big Peanut, and Lizard Men From Outer Space

As the Lemming said, there's probably some finger-pointing coming in the none-too-distant future. This time around, the Lemming suggests stepping out of the conventional 'it is the fault of Big Oil/Communists/the military-industrial complex.' A highly under-utilized bogey man is the vast conspiracy of space-alien, shape-shifting, lizard-men.

Or perhaps the Lemming's Big Cheese and Big Peanut will become popular fall guys. (May 3, 2011)

Then again, maybe not.

Flooded Homes: No Joke

The Lemming remembers what happened to the Aflac Duck's voice:
With celebrity foot-in-mouth incidents in mind: please note: It is not the Lemming's intent to make fun of
  • The folks whose homes are getting flooded
  • Whoever decided to open the spillway
  • Residents of Arkansas
  • Attorneys
  • Fish
The Lemming takes folks with serious grievances - seriously.

Those who come out of the woodwork after disasters, with pretty much the same prepackaged complaints the Lemming has been hearing for decades? Not so much.

Somewhat-related posts:

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