Floods

Rich Galen
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Posted: Aug 31, 2017 10:26 AM
Floods

If you've never been in a flood, you have no idea of the devastation it brings with it.

A flood that makes its way into your house is not like the bathtub overflowing. It is like a swamp came into your house bringing with it the mud, the smells, sometimes the critters and it gets into every nook and cranny.

A minor flood only exists in newspapers and on TV. Any flood in your house is a major disruptive event.

Look around the first floor of your house and measure up two inches from the floor.

A minor amount.

Now, think about the carpets or the hardwood. Think about the electronics for your refrigerator and the extension cords that have connected your electronics to the wall socket for all these years.

Now, think about a flood that goes halfway up the stairs to your second floor.

Weeks and weeks after Katrina, long after the water had receded, people routinely greeted one another at the grocery store with a question: "Are you still living on your second floor?" Meaning, has the contractor you hired to tear out and repair the ruined floors, woodwork, walls, and ceilings on your first floor shown up yet?

Marietta, Ohio sits at what we like to call the "confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers."

In March 1964 there was a major flood cause, as usual, by the Ohio River flooding, causing the Muskingum to back up because the water had nowhere to go.

There was a photo in the New York Times of the Marietta College (45750) crew rowing up Front Street with the street sign even with their elbows.

I remember this because it occurred six months before I arrived in Marietta to begin my storied college career which included being the coxswain of the freshman boat on that very same crew.

Floods do not affect every population subcategory equally. The water doesn't care whether you are the president of the bank or you stock the shelves at the hardware store, but the bank president will have the assets and connections to find suitable temporary housing until his house is fixed that the stocker will probably not.

The Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle quotes Bat Masterson (yes, THAT Bat Masterson) as writing:

"Everyone gets the same amount of ice in life. The rich get theirs in the summer; the poor in the winter."

According to USA Today:

"Standard homeowners' and renters' insurance policies often cover wind damage, but not groundwater flooding. That requires separate coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurance company.

"As of April," the article continues, "less than one-sixth of homes in Harris County, Texas, whose county seat is Houston, currently have active National Flood Insurance Program policies. The county has about 1.8 million housing units."

As Harvey continues to meander to the northeast, he has brought similar drenching rains and similar destruction to Beaumont, Texas about 85 miles to the east.

A woman from Beaumont interviewed on The Weather Channel whose apartment was underwater was asked if she had insurance. She said she had let her renter's insurance lapse.

Wouldn't have mattered.

Many of the people who get their ice in the winter will move away and never come back. New Orleans has lost about 45 percent of its pre-Katrina population. From about 627,000 to 344,000 today.

Houston is the 4th largest city in America (behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) with a population of about 2.4 million. We won't know for years what the effects of Harvey will be on the population base, but Houston has built an infrastructure: Roads, electric lines, water and sewer mains, schools, churches, gas stations, grocery stores, cell towers, etc. to support 2.4 million people.

If the population loss is just half the rate of New Orleans - 22 percent - that will mean over a half million people will leave the city and never return.

At some point the rain will stop, the water will drain into the Gulf of Mexico, and our attention will have moved on to the next storm - political or natural.

There will be fights in Congress about how much money should be withdrawn from the already stressed federal coffers to help Texas and Louisiana rebuild. If I were a Member of Congress from Texas I would make the point that the damage was not to mansions in the Hamptons nor to expensive summer homes along the Carolina barrier islands.

I would make the point that the majority of the ruined homes will be where regular people lived; not rich and not poor. People who get their ice in the Autumn and the Spring; people who have lost everything through no fault of their own.

Floods.