We had another weather event last Saturday. Parts of New Orleans got 8+ inches of rain in three hours. The rain was random and much worse in parts of the city leading to some flooding in the affected areas. Adrastos World HQ got 2 inches that day so we were fine.
Some of the post-rain incident discussion has danced on my last nerve. It’s not analogous to Katina/Federal Flood in that it didn’t impact 80% of the city and nobody died. It’s also less clear as of this writing that human error was a major factor as it was in 2005. The human factor may have caused some problems around the edges but that sort of deluge is going to wreak havoc no matter how well prepared we are. Sometimes shit just happens. This was one of my initial reactions on social media:
There was much lively debate and disagreement on the thread but I remain convinced that we have to learn how to live with water in New Orleans as the Dutch have. We need cleaner catch basins and better infrastructure but severe weather is going to happen, particularly in the age of climate change. This was a random freak event and there will be more to come.
This is not the first non-hurricane/levee break style flood the city has had. It won’t be the last. One of my FB commenters, Carlos Froggy May, posted this list on the thread:
Summarizing between May ’78 and the 2005 Federal Flood, leaving out hurricanes/major tropical storms, New Orleans floods from rain alone include:
May 1978. Well documented.
Feb 1979. “Hundreds of Area Homes Flooded. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7 February 1979 I”
April 1980. A few references.
April 1983. Major event. National media reporting.
June 1991. National media, though only sparse traces online. “The deluge, which started during the evening rush hour Monday, caught New Orleans by surprise. The downpour abated overnight, then resumed Tuesday morning.” “To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of,” said Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on the ground floor of his house.”
May 1995. Major event, very well documented online.
September 1998. Described.
June 2005. Seems largely forgotten given what happened a few months later. What have I missed?
Any time someone insists that people can triumph over nature, I think of a passage in one of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn novels. Leaphorn is a detective on the Navajo tribal police in Arizona. I wish I could quote it directly but it involves Leaphorn marveling at white people planting lawns in the desert and being shocked when they die every time they’re planted. Hillerman’s point is that you have to learn to live with your environment. You can sand down the rough edges and minimize damage but nature will win in the end. Some may think this is fatalistic but I think it’s realistic. Can they abolish earthquakes in my native California?
It’s time to address the post title. Every time something like this happens, my post-K/Federal Flood survivor’s guilt kicks in. It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.
This was a terrible event but all the people acting as if it’s 2005 all over again need to take a deep breath followed by a chill pill. Nobody died, only pockets of the city flooded, and nobody was forced out of their homes at gun point. I had some advice on twitter for local voters in the upcoming mayoral election:
Perspective not drama is called for. We should fix anything that contributed to the recent flooding but we cannot abolish nature even if there were times we wish that was possible. It is not.
That was exhausting. Any time I dredge up these memories, I feel rotten until the feeling passes a few hours later.
Finally, one of my theories in life is that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. We’ll give the Davies brothers the last word: