Central U.S. Reeling from Lack of Preparedness for Rainstorms--What About Earthquakes?
April 26, 2011 • 10:36AM

True, this Spring's "April Showers" are outstandingly heavier than usual in the central United States. Even so, Monday's levee breaches, forced evacuations, and harm in this region, expected to become worse later in the week, spotlight both the decrepitude of water management and transportation, and also how evil it is for Obama to speak of disaster preparedness.

In fact, as if in a message from on high, the Thursday, April 28 Federal Homeland Security "shake-out" earthquake drill in the New Madrid Seismic Zone states of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois (and nearby), occurs in the very same region now suffering from high water, weakened flood walls, closed roads, closed schools, evacuations, etc. In many localities, the April flood emergency will force cancellation of the April earthquake emergency drill!

The rainstorms and floods make the point: instate Glass-Steagall, unseat President Obama, if you want disaster preparedness.

Monday in southeastern Missouri, some 1,000 persons in Poplar Bluff left their homes in a mandatory evacuation, when the Black River levee in their town was compromised. By early evening, water had topped the levee in multiple spots, and the flow may necessitate evacuating 7,000 people—half the town.

In Hardy, northeast Arkansas, the City Hall, other buildings and homes were evacuated, because of the rising Spring River floodwaters.

These localities are part of the corridor from Texas to the Ohio River Valley, experiencing successive, violent and heavy storms, on top of spring run-off. In recent days, some areas received 6 to 10 inches of rain. Another storm system is now coming through, and expected to drop another 5 to 8 inches more. Localities all long the Ohio River, from Louisville, Ky. to Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio joins the Mississippi, and southward, are trying to take measures. The Mississippi River is expected to crest in mid-May, at Vicksburg, Miss., at 52.5 feet, which would be the highest since the 1937 floods.

The Vicksburg U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) District announced it was sending eight quarter boats (barges for flood-fighters) to a section of the Mississippi River at Hickman, Kentucky, to aid the Memphis District; and other USACE mobilizations are underway.

But nothing can make up for the underlying lack of water control systems. There are two parts of the dismal picture. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the major rivers—the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and others—to see to levees, locks, dams, revetments, ox-bow maintenance, debris-clearance, everything, but the USACE has been underfunded, and understaffed for decades.

Secondly, there are upstream watersheds and lesser rivers, all of which are technically in a USACE District, but whose installations (small dams and levees) are the responsibility of local levee districts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture system, and other authorities. Many of these structures have decayed as their authorities, some dating to the 1920s and '30s, were underfunded or bankrupt. For example, at one long-standing Black River levee, people just came and hauled away the dirt, after the levee authority went out of existence in the 1960s.