Dealing with Disaster - Missouri's Vulnerability
When it comes to massive urban flooding, are there any parallels to be drawn between the wrath of a hurricane and that of a river? Take the great flood of '93 that so many of us remember all too well. Are we setting ourselves up for another flood in the future? The Gulf Coast got the lesson this past September.
"Katrina has changed the world as we know it," explained SEMA Director Ron Reynolds.
Missourians learned of the awesome power of water in 1993, where the area of floodwaters near St. Louis were equal to some of the Great Lakes. An unusually wet Spring laid the soggy foundation for a first hand account of muddy misery. Experts and common sense agree, it's just a matter of time. Some experts say comparing a flood to a hurricane is apples and oranges. But not everyone sees it that way.
Aldophus Busch heads the Great River Habitat Alliance, a group devoted to stopping flood plain development in and around the St. Louis area. He says massive urban flooding in Missouri is even more likely now because our rivers flood plains are being squeezed tighter and tighter for developments' sake.
And while the flood water from Hurricane Katrina hit with the force of 150 mile per hour winds, the water receded within days. Not the case in Metropolitan St. Louis where the mighty Mississippi, the Missouri and Illinois rivers all converge. It took 103 days before the water finally dropped back below flood stage.
"What made the '93 flood so unusual besides the fact it was an all time high is the duration, we basically were in flood for months," explained Army Corps of Engineers' Dave Busse.
Most of the flooded land in 1993 was agricultural, so while St. Louis dodged a bullet by mere inches, New Orleans got hit dead on. Missouri emergency officials realized flooding started that disaster, but poor communication and lack of foresight compounded misfortune.
"You're going to have to identify the needs: The basic things, water, food, shelter. The things you would expect when you get there. But it was, come to the Superdome and bring all of the things you're going to need for the next three days. To me that was a lesson learned. Those are things our plans will be reflecting," said SEMA's Reynolds.
Luckily, the Corp of Engineers and SEMA agree: Both say money isn't an issue. They stress it will be there when and if its needed.