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Snowguy716

Planning for natural disasters/attacks in America's cities

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http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/20/flynn.commentary/index.html

A very interesting article, indeed focusing on Katrina and the 9/11 attacks.

What I found very interesting is that the article states that 90% of Americans live near the coast, in flood zones, on fault lines, or in other disaster prone regions. I believe we are more unprepared than ever in our cities to deal with this.

Amazingly, cities like St. Louis have revamped freeways with shock resistant coils underneath them so that the freeway gives in the event of an earth quake. You might be asking yourself "St. Louis? Earthquakes?" southeastern and eastern Missouri experienced a wave of earthquakes in December-February 1811/1812 that temporarily caused the Mississippi river to flow backwards, flooding areas and changing the course of the river in some areas. Many houses were destroyed in the February quake that measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

In fact, most of the country is at risk for earth quakes and people don't realize it. All of the western U.S, the central U.S, and most of the east coast outside of the southeast is earthquake prone.

The upper midwest and Florida are really the only two areas that are seismically sound.

Also, cities on the east coast and gulf coast are not prepared for future hurricane strikes. People continue to build houses on the beach on barrier islands. New York is particularly susceptible to heavy damage if a large hurricane were to move up the east coast and strike the city directly. This is seen as quite possible, and people have become complacent since the last large hurricane in the northeast (1938, I believe).

Should we make significant investments in cities to protect them from terrorist attacks and/or natural disasters? Should we place stricter limits on developing land in disaster prone areas?

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I'm going to touch on hurricane areas since that is first to come to mind when reading this thread. We all hear about how people build huge half a million dollar dream homes right on the coast line or barrier islands in hurricane zones, live in them for a couple of years, than a hurricane blowing in a wiping them out. Then we all hear on the cable news channels those people crying, "Our entire lives, memories. and everything we own has been destroyed. Boo Hoo :cry: " Do you think I feel sorry for those folks? My answer is a resounding no. It is an act of absolute stupidity to build one's life long dream house on the shoreline or barrier island in a hurricane zone especially when the risk of losing that precious dream house to a hurricane is obviously present. Now I know there are circumstances such as a job transfer that places some in harms way. As long as they live as far inland as possible and take appropriate precautions then I'm fine with them. Its just the knuckle heads that build right on the coast line or barrier islands I have a problem with. Therefore, if I had my way, insurers would not insure homes within at least 1 1/2 miles of the shore line depending on the area as well as not providing coverage on homes on barrier islands. In short, folks would live in such precarious places at their own peril because "Talk to the Hand . It Cares." would be the only reply to their cries for help when a hurricane makes landfall.

While I'm at it. I'll head to New Orleans and to what I would do to that area. In the land of make-believe, New Orleans, would be plowed under, and restored to the state as it was before the city was founded. Then Baton Rouge would become the next New Orleans. But in reality that would be fool hardy. So I would acquire the help from the ultimate experts of defending low laying lands from stormy waters, the Dutch. With most of their nation siting at or below sea level and having to deal with the perils of living in such vulnerable land for hundreds of years, the Dutch would be best suited to building an effective means of protecting the Big Easy from future Katrinas.

Lastly, I would turn my attention to the political machine and how it responds to natural disasters. Katrina made it crystal clear that our government is a complete and utter failure when dealing with calamity. Changes are needed there big time. To make the changes, I would replace groups like FFMA with an independent group designed specifically to deal with natural and man made disasters. Then legal mechanisms, even a Constitutional Amendment if need be, would be put in place to force the government to properly fund this organization at any cost. Then similar measures would be enacted for the Army Core of Engineers. That means no budget cuts even if American's had to pay higher taxes to keep these groups funded. It also means if they need more funds to cover such things like inflation, they get them. So when disaster strikes and also when preventing disasters, these organizations would have the funds they need to do there jobs and do them right without any "And's", "If's" or "But's" from some spineless pushing Congressmen.

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Lastly, I would turn my attention to the political machine and how it responds to natural disasters. Katrina made it crystal clear that our government is a complete and utter failure when dealing with calamity. Changes are needed there big time. To make the changes, I would replace groups like FFMA with an independent group designed specifically to deal with natural and man made disasters. Then legal mechanisms, even a Constitutional Amendment if need be, would be put in place to force the government to properly fund this organization at any cost. Then similar measures would be enacted for the Army Core of Engineers. That means no budget cuts even if American's had to pay higher taxes to keep these groups funded. It also means if they need more funds to cover such things like inflation, they get them. So when disaster strikes and also when preventing disasters, these organizations would have the funds they need to do there jobs and do them right without any "And's", "If's" or "But's" from some spineless pushing Congressmen.

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^Let's not make this another political thread. Let's focus on what needs to be done.

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In Providence we built a Hurricane Barrier after the city was flooded by hurricanes in 1938 and 1955. It is believed the city has been saved from flooding on at least two occasions thanks to the barrier (Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Bob in 1991).

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Main barrier at mouth of Providence River.

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A levee runs along the land portions of the barrier, here is the gate allowing Allens Avenue through the barrier south of Downtown.

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Main gates.

The barrier was operated by the city but was recently turned over to the Army Corp of Engineers. The pumps in the barrier which pump out the river are the same design as many of those used in New Orleans. Nearby New Bedford also has a Hurricane Barrier at the mouth of it's harbor.

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Going through the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier on the Martha's Vineyard ferry.

A couple photos of Providence flooded by storm surge:

Carol001.jpg

Carol004.jpg

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City Hall workers trapped by the surge.

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Thanks for those photos Cotuit. That barrier is pretty cool, i never really though of Providence as being at danger of a hurricane.

My state doesnt really have many natural disaster threats. Just the occasional blizzard, tornado, or flood. I dont think there has ever been a strong enough storm to cause a big storm surge on the great lakes, and all the cities with rivers usually have some sort of flood protection.

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Grand Rapids Mi, sits in a valley which helps reduce the threat of tornadoes somewhat. Also since the Grand River flows through the center of the city the downtown area is protected by a number of flood wall's built in the 1900's. Also a series of dams complements the flood walls. But these are meant to regulate the flow of the river to prevent it from drying out in the heat of summer. The biggest disaster to hit Grand Rapids was a catastrophic log jam that occurred in 1918 on which logs flowing down the river from saw mills up stream jammed up in the down town stretch of the river. The jam itself damaged or destroyed many of the city's bridges while the resultant flood inundated much of the downtown area in several feet of water. I believe this disaster lasted about a week before the log jam was finally cleared up. It was this disaster that spurred the city to build its flood walls. Since then GR was not had major problems with the river. However the spring thaw does force the city and surrounding metro area to keep an ever watchful eye on the Grand River.

In winter, ice storms that occur from time to time can knock out power while lake effect snows can make driving an iffy situation. But any hardy Michigander can deal with old man winter without too much trouble. A good snow shovel, a bag of salt, and good tires on your car coupled with careful driving does the trick.

As for earthquakes, there are no real worries here as the entire state of Michigan sits on a nice stable bed of gypsum that buffers the state from any tremors. Only once in my life have I felt an earthquake in Michigan which was a 3 on the Richter Scale. But the epicenter originated somewhere in extreme southern Indiana near the Kentucky boarder.

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Fortunately, the area I live in doesn't experience natural disaster on a grand scale and I don't think we're high on the target list for any organized terrorist cell. However, our area has multiple disaster response groups formed from police, emergency, government, and medical agencies to repsond to just such a scenario. Several of these groups were formed well before 9/11 and have just been bolstered with additional funding since. They have infact responded to every major hurricane in the SE and even the 9/11 attacks. (Hmm, would they even be around if WE actually needed them!)

As far as natural disasters, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Ice Storms are our biggest problems. Usually, the tornadoes we have are fairly weak, they get stronger the closer you get towards Raleigh and the coastal plain. Hurricanes can still be strong, Hugo still had 75+ winds when it passed thru town. But major Ice Storms are the worst. Several years ago, one hit during a "deep freeze" for out area and several people died trying to keep warm in cars and other lethal methods inside their houses (Hispanic immigrants faired poorly as many had charcoal fires indoors trying to keep warm, mainly from not knowing what to do safely to keep warm.)

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