Hurricanes, Flood Control, and Common Sense

I’ve always been fascinated by violent weather. Fundamentally, weather can show us how insignificant and powerless we as humans are in the scheme of things. In my short lifetime, I’ve been through one category 3 hurricane and I’ve personally witnessed a 20 foot wall of water descend upon a central Texas river, changing the calm cool Blanco river to a raging, angry torrent in a matter of about a minute. Don’t mess around with mother nature.

I write this morning watching from the comfort of my living room an impending tragedy that will descend upon the Gulf Coast. I watch in fascination and horror the third wholesale evacuation in 10 years (Georges 1998, Katrina 2005, Gustav (2008) of one of our nation’s great cities, New Orleans. My prayers and thoughts go out to the evacuees, and I hope we’re as generous and helpful as we were the last time.

I also wonder if we need to radically change the way we approach flood control in this country?

The knee jerk reaction many have is to abandon New Orleans and let it revert back to nature. The area is a bowl, and most of the city lies below sea level. But is that the right answer? The area is largely below sea level and we have built levees and structures that unfortunately have excaberated the problem. However, there are 300 years of history in South Louisiana, starting with the French in the 18th century and continuing with the British expulsion of the Acadians from the Bay of Fundy shortly thereafter. Basically, New Orleans and Acadiana are peoples’ homes. Can we in good conscience tell them we give up and tell them to move?

We are a great nation, but we aren’t the masters of flood control. Maybe we should admit we have failed, and pay the people who built this to design a world class system for us to protect South Louisiana. They’ve been at it for 1,000 years, most of their entire country is below sea level, and they are pros.

We may be a proud nation, but the Office of Common Sense asks the question – why not pay the Dutch to design and build our flood control? What do you think?

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