The Fire, Water, Disaster Next Time

Many of us are sick of the news. It’s become redundant and, frankly, some of it is becoming less credible than it should be. It’s apocalyptic, at best, but to be lied to about a threat (natural or man-made), from a leader (political or private or parent) is unconscionable and no one with common sense would consider that acceptable. I’m just saying.

If you caught the latest news in the Washington DC area (affectionately called the DMV), you know it was hit pretty hard with an “unprecedented” weather event. A deluge hit the city and suburbs in minutes, recently.

Several inches of rain in a short period of time — without a hurricane or derecho or warning — is unnerving. How do you prepare for it? As the named fires rage in the west & the latest a named tropical storms are churning in the Atlantic, the DMV got socked by a deluge some called the “100 year event”.

Reporters sought out the victims of the flooding, to get those personal stories. Stories of harrowing water rescues from submerged cars and sewage soaked basements dominated the headlines (if it floods it leads, too). Many of the victims were shocked — they were new to the community. Basements are primary residences (Unit-1, Apt. A) for many people in this gentrified, multi-unit converted row house era.

Some elected officials and government agency spokespeople, called the storm the “100-year” event. Those of us — who have lived in the community long enough — know that that name has been taken. To hear folks use that phrase vexed my spirit.

DCist, the “unofficial home page”, reported on a previous “100 year incident”. Back then, community and elected officials were stunned by the storm and the aftermath. Attention elected officials and city agency reps: that was EIGHT years ago, not 100. And, as noted in the article, it happened in 2006, 200.

This photo is from “100 year flood” of 2012-not 100 years ago.

Civic Action

In August, 20001, DC neighborhoods Bloomingdale & Eckington, and other places were shocked by my first DC deluge. When it happened, government spokespeople got on camera and expressed the shock of this, yep, a “100-year event”. I was vexed then, too, because they attempted to comfort us with a belief that we’d have noting to worry about unless we had Methuselah’s genes.

The weather event of 2001 was major, locally and prompted residents to mobilize. No one knew there was a “Lake Rhode Island Avenue” and it’s tributaries ran through our basements. Residents were shocked by the damage and loss. Government officials knew there were problems — they had documentation that verified the flooding history of the area. (NOTE: That information isn’t usually offered to homebuyers & basement renters.)

Residents who attended community meetings (with the requisite finger-pointing & yelling) demanded action. The anger rose fast — like the water — when water agency reps proudly proclaimed a “plan” on their books, which would be implemented by 2025. The officials heard loud and clear that was UNACCEPTABLE!

You don’t have to be a meteorologist or psychic friend to see the pattern here. We wanted a “NOW action” to respond to a “NOW problem”. Because the people exercised their civic voices, action was taken. More studies were done and reports were produced (again, not likely shared with possible home/condo buyers). The 2025 plan was implemented earlier, because the people started talking about class action lawsuits against the city and DC Water and Sewer Authority. Lawsuits — even the threat of them — can inspire action.

Numerous road closures and detours, around Rhode Island & Florida Avenues — which we have had to contend with for several years (and for some years to come) — are a result of civically engaged residents who persisted. And, until last week, the flood mitigation efforts seemed to be working. I do wonder if someone forgot to flip a switch that would divert and store deluge-level rainwater, as this multi-million dollar project is supposed to do. I also wonder if the debris from streets that haven’t been cleaned for months, just clogged the sewer systems. I recall seeing past hurricane preparation, which included deploying city sewer “vacuums”. Hopefully the city will look into more preventative measures. Otherwise, the millions being invested into solutions is more money down the overflowing drains.

Yes, Virginia, disasters happen beyond the DMV

We just commemorated 9/11 in a whole new way, this year, due to another disaster that could have been tackled with better planning. The tragedies that took place on 9/11 changed air security for ever.

Disasters (natural and man-made) happen. none of us are exempt. The impact of the event may be most evident at the epicenter, but many more will feel the ripple. The east coast sky is hazy from the fires out west, for example. Droughts & floods in one place can impact food access & food prices elsewhere. The murder of one person can spark protests & policy changes elsewhere. A virus can change the world. No place is exempt when disasters strike. If you’re wise, you will pay attention to what’s happening elsewhere — and extend the compsssion you would want others to extend to you, when you’re in need.

Do Your Duty

In order for disasters (man-made & natural) to be effectively addressed and, hopefully, mitigated, the people need honesty from those who are elected to do the work. We need leaders with foresight and a willingness to learn from — not ignore — the past. We need a leader FIRST-cheer later. It’s up to the people (Us) to exercise intellect (or google) and the civic engagement part of our brains to get smarter. Voting smart won’t stop many of these crises immediately, but, it will get people in position to make better decisions for our future — and with our sustained guidance. We must hold electeds and ourselves accountable at all times. Imagine where our environment might be if a previous generation had listened to environmentalists. Imagine where we might be with “race relations” had we listened to and applied the recommendations of leaders of the past.

Forewarned is Forearmed

We have history books, government records, family members, neighbors and elders that tell us about past floods, racial unrest, storms, earthquakes (I can tell you about this one), pandemics & fires. Plants, insects, animals are known to adapt and evolve. As a “designated” higher being, we should be better equipped to handle the issues that confront us — none of them are new. We say we love our children, yet, we let inept politicians put them in harms way. We say we believe in making the future better, while letting government run amok. We claim we are the smartest generation to date, while millions are content with being lied to daily. Actions speak louder than words & claims.