Showing posts with label levees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label levees. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A river runs over it

For your flood watching edification, here are some scenes from downtown Omaha on Sunday.

Yes, the Missouri River continues to consume everything in its bloated path.

Monday, June 27, 2011

35 feet and rising

A couple of months ago, it wouldn't be unusual for visitors to be "swept away" by Omaha's riverfront.

Now, if you're down by the Missouri downtown, it wouldn't be too hard to get swept away on Omaha's riverfront. There's a distinction here, and it involves minding the barricades and signs.

The muddy Mo is running rampant and consuming just about everything in its wild and woolly path. So far, that pretty much has been limited to levees, farms, homes, roads, an interstate highway, a town or three, some parks and bunches of marinas.

And now the River That Ate the Midwest has its gastronomic eye on a couple of Nebraska nuclear power plants for dessert. Lovely.

FORGIVE US in this part of the world if we've become prone to visions of John Cleese and the "thin little mint . . . a tiny wafer" in Monty Python's the Meaning of Life. Only radioactive and sort of apocalyptic.

I guess we'll let the Nuclear Regulatory Commission worry about that for now. At top, you can see that Omaha has its hands full keeping the College World Series -- and the rest of north downtown -- dry.

What you're looking at is where crews tapped into the area's storm sewer that has been backed up by the flooding Missouri. Now the city pumps out runoff that would otherwise have nowhere else to go -- well, apart from all over city streets and into neighborhood businesses -- and send it over the floodwall and into the swollen river.

Moving south a bit, at left above, this is what the "Labor" sculpture on Omaha's Lewis and Clark Landing looked like Sunday evening. If you look closely, you'll note a couple of figures that have just about been covered by the rushing floodwaters.

They're about 8 feet tall. And they stand atop a platform the entire sculpture rests upon.

AT RIGHT is what "Labor" looked like a couple of weeks ago. Here's a link to the scene from when the waters just began to overtake it.

Perspective -- it's a useful thing.

Now back to keeping north downtown -- NoDo in local speak -- somewhat dry. It's not easy when the river's so high the storm runoff can't run off.

That's where these pumps (below) come in.

It seems Omaha has become a northern New Orleans. Complete with the street flooding until the pumps can get all the water lifted out and into the river.

THE STORM WATER goes from the sewerage (top picture) to these pumps (above), and then to a makeshift slough across what was, until a few days ago, the parking lot of the National Park Service regional headquarters.

THIS IS the drainage slough to the river and all the plumbing coming from the newly added sewer pumps.

Beneath this is the concrete parking lot. It's covered with plastic tarp, walled in with concrete traffic barricades and buttressed with sand berms. One-ton sandbags close off the slough in the foreground.

by the way, used to be the lower level of Lewis and Clark Landing. Now it's the Missouri River.

this used to be an old pier that stood well above the Missouri River. Now it is the Missouri River.

AND LIKE the riverfront trail, this post must come to an abrupt end.

Stay dry out there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I told you so

A Revolution 21 tip o' the hat goes to Col. Robert J. Ruch, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Omaha district.

It's not just anyone who can make your Mighty Favog look like a clairvoyant and prophetic Mighty Favog. In other words, I called it, and it was the good colonel who made it so.

I said that the Corps would "blame this mess near Hamburg, Iowa, on the levee having been compromised by damage from beavers or badgers (or something), then say Iowans should have inspected it better."

was coming came to pass this morning in the Omaha World-Herald:
Downtown, a nearly 10-foot pile of dirt and plastic tarp surrounded the Blue Moon Bar & Grill.

The pub's wooden floors and pool table have belonged to Vicki Sjulin and her family since 1972. Dad runs the grill most mornings. Mom works behind the counter.

“It's been the local watering hole for a long time,” Sjulin said Monday. “Now it's just going to be a water hole.”

Sjulin said she planned to keep the business open as long as possible, until the local utility company cuts power. Frustrated residents poured in and out of the bar to discuss the rising water and their plans to escape them.

“People here are angry, and they want to know why we're at the point we're at,” she said. “This is a total man-made flood, in spite of the high snowfall and rain. Everyone's question is, who made these choices?”

Built by the corps in the 1940s, the levee sustained three recent minor breaches before Monday's incident broke a section one mile south of the Iowa-Missouri state line. About two hours after that breach, floodwater broke through a levee farther south in Holt County, Mo. Officials there planned to intentionally breach t
he levee downstream to take pressure off a secondary levee built in recent weeks.

“There is risk behind any levee,'' Ruch said. “That is assumed.''

Monday's rupture, however, was not an indicator of what landowners and residents along the Missouri can expect in coming weeks when higher flows arrive, Ruch said.

Ruch said the levee break came as a surprise because the levee had handled higher water during flooding last year.

He said a hole created by a badger or gopher could have eroded the integrity of the earthen structure.
THUS, the first part of my prognostication has been fulfilled. The second part -- blaming the locals -- will come to pass after the locals start taking sufficient shots at the Corps' "your guess is as good as mine" levees.

And isn't it the case that the badgers and gophers always take the fall whenever something bad happens? If I were a
Wisconsin or Minnesota fan, I would be pissed.

Of course, I am no expert on the levee-eating capabilities of Wisconsin or Minnesota student athletes, or their furry inspirations. But I am pretty sure that gophers, badgers, beavers or muskrats -- not to mention Big 10 linebackers and tackles -- encounter virtually insurmountable difficulties in burrowing through asphalt, concrete or rock armoring on levees.

That, however, would leave the Corps (and the politicians who'd rather spend money on Wall Street and the military-industrial complex than on vital infrastructure) with no one or nothing else to blame when yet another "heck of a job" turns into yet another heck of a mess.

Meantime, I'm still trying to process the irony of George W. Bush coming to town Saturday for the opening of the College World Series.
You think Michael Brown might be available, too?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Learning it, loving it . . . living it?

The art of sandbagging (when the river's just too much and the levees are just too little) isn't something just any fool can do without a little learnin'. Of course, you'd be surprised at how many try, nevertheless.

This handy video from our neighbors to the southeast should make you an expert in about a quarter of an hour. Though the folks up in North Dakota add an important detail . . . your sandbags should point in the direction of the water's flow.

Remember, this is the age of the do-it-yourselfer. Unfortunately, in this country, this also extends to flood protection. Learn it, love it, live it.

NET Radio.

When the levee breaks

Heck of a job, Corps of Engineers.

Watch the feds blame this mess near Hamburg, Iowa, on the levee having been compromised by damage from beavers or badgers (or something), then say Iowans should have inspected it better. Then watch me say that if the levee had been armored with concrete, asphalt or rock, the varmints would have had their work cut out for them . . . and the Corps would have nobody to blame but itself.


Just like in New Orleans.

Here, courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald, is the federally constructed pile of mud in the middle of the Missouri River formerly known as a "levee" this morning after the initial breach. Now, according to late reports, the break in the levee south of Hamburg is now at least 300 feet wide.

Going under on the Missouri

Here is the Missouri River at downtown Omaha on Saturday evening (above).

At right, here's the Missouri River at the same spot downtown as it was May 29.

But it's during the coming week, forecasters say, that the
real water will start to hit the Omaha area. By the time the Mighty Mo stops rising sometime in the next month or two -- barring any big rains -- we're supposed to have 4 to 6 feet more water than this.

And it's supposed to stay that high all summer.

Can the levees withstand that much water for that long -- and levels above flood stage maybe until winter? No one knows; the Missouri River flood-control system never has had to withstand such a test.

WILL SOME TOWNS around here, particularly on the Iowa shore, go under? It's a distinct possibility.

Are we already having levee problems in spots?
Unfortunately, yes we are.

Do I have confidence in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built the flood-control system?
Not since 2005 . . . I'm originally from Louisiana.

And in these parts, the feeling quickly is becoming widespread.

Do I think -- the New Orleans group that's emerged as one of the chief watchdogs over the Corps -- should send somebody up here to take a look and have a listen?
I think that would be useful both for us and for it, yes.

DO FOLKS who live on the bottomlands along the entire length of the Missouri need your thoughts, prayers and assistance now and for the foreseeable future.


Monday, June 06, 2011

When the levee breaks

We're days and days away from the highest water on the Missouri River, and already the levee near Hamburg, Iowa, has given way.

Does this
Omaha World-Herald dispatch sound familiar at all, Brownie?

Two levee breaches just south of Hamburg, Iowa, prompted authorities in Fremont County to issue a mandatory evacuation order Sunday for residents in southern Hamburg.

The Fremont County Emergency Management Office said about 240 residents — roughly 20 percent of the town — were ordered out of their homes following the downstream levee breach in Missouri's Atchison County.

Record outflows from upstream reservoirs have swollen the Missouri River this year, adding considerable pressure to a vast system of levees erected along the river's banks.

Early assessments determined the second partial breach near Hamburg and the damaged areas are likely to fully breach as water levels continue to rise.

As a temporary measure to reinforce the levee to delay a full breach, the Iowa National Guard on Sunday was using a Black Hawk helicopter to drop 1,000-pound sandbags onto the affected part of the levee. Authorities had removed heavy equipment and workers from the area because of concerns about the levee's strength.

The situation in southwest Iowa reflects part of authorities' biggest concerns. Although the stream of river water leaking from the levee into nearby fields was minimal Sunday, authorities worry that part of a community's infrastructure could be inundated.

EVENTS OF the past six years may have caused me to become somewhat cynical, but I do believe I have figured out the government's approach to flood control across these United States:

President ___________ came down in a ___________

With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand

The president say, ''Little fat man isn't it a shame

What the river has done to this poor cracker's land."
Heck of a job.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A matter of perspective

I'm not sure people "get it" when reports about flooding on the Mississippi River dominate the evening news.

For example, Omaha fought a hellacious battle with the rampaging Missouri River in 1952, and it survived by the skin of its teeth. Many towns didn't.

But the thing is, when you've grown up on the Mississippi River, you have a term for the Mighty Mo: "That little bitty river."

Above, we find, courtesy of Louisiana State University, a shot taken at noon today of the swollen Mississippi where it borders the west end of campus. It's only a few feet from the top of the levee.

THING IS, the levees on the Mississippi in south Louisiana are as big and bad as levees get in the United States.

To give you an idea, the first photo was taken from atop the levee, looking toward the water. The second one is from atop the levee looking the other way.

It's pretty much like taking a picture from the top of a three-story building. And if, say, this particular levee were to fail, the water would stretch as far as the camera can see.

And farther.

Did I mention the Mississippi won't crest for another two weeks at Baton Rouge?

Perspective. It something that's nice to have.