Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Columns

June 16, 2010

Flood inspires thoughts

Corsicana — I was at the Office of Emergency Management meeting on Monday to see a Declaration of Disaster approved by Navarro County commissioners and the first thing that struck me was, ‘hang on, I’m in Texas, not England,’ how has this happened? We are used to it in England, a bit of torrential rain here, a few flash floods there. But I never thought I would see it here. Texas is hot. Texas is dry. At least that is the general consensus.

In six hours on Thursday last week, the southwest of the county saw between 12 and 13 inches of rainfall causing untold amounts of damage.

Initial estimates say that it will require $1.85 million of funding to repair the damage. Given that the dam at Richland Chambers near Dawson will take $800,000 on its own to repair, I reckon the overall figure will be much higher.

Given that scores of people need to be re-homed, clothed and fed, and that in the hour prior to the meeting four calls were received by one county commissioner to explain that the houses of those callers were either extensively damaged, or damaged beyond repair, you have to feel for those that are worst affected.

Worst still, three of those callers did not have insurance on their homes. Surely there is only so much that the American Red Cross, Texas Department of Transportation, and federal and local government can do to prepare for times like this. The question is, could they do more?

If you live on low, flat land, it is inevitable it is going to get flooded; even in Texas.

One of the things I do not miss about England is that when we got severe weather, we were never fully prepared and we never had the resources to cope when faced with the forces of mother nature.

I was in Sheffield in the Northeast of England in June 2007 when the city got it’s worst floods in nearly 150 years. Fortunately for me, the rain had only been going on a short time — torrential though it was — and even though the train station was almost swamped, I was lucky enough to be on the last train out before they closed the lines, stopped the buses and the roads and drains were overwhelmed.

Sheffield city center was on fairly low land so they were used to this kind of thing every now and again, but not as extreme as on that day. Like with the southwest of Navarro County, no-one can fully prepare for that amount of water in such a short space of time.

I remember watching the news the next day and seeing that two people died in those floods in Sheffield and damage was estimated at $1.5 billion. Hundreds of people were lifted to safety by helicopters as drainage systems failed and streets were flooded in several feet of water.

Thankfully in Navarro County, the floods were not fatal. That, at least, is one positive to be taken out of all this.

I do think however, that it is tragic that more resources can not be put aside to cover these eventualities as and when they do happen. I am a great believer in putting away a little something for a rainy day. I do not want to get in to politics, but I believe that from state funding, federal funding, taxes and grants, at least some of that money that is received by counties and cities every year should be designated for those that really need it in times of emergency.

If someone owns and is insured on a million dollar house then yes they are in a much better financial position than someone who lives in a mobile home and is not insured on their home on that day their home gets destroyed. However, neither family has anywhere to go that night though and a house can not be rebuilt over night. Neither family has clothes or food for the following day, and if they have children then it makes the situation that much more serious. Tax-dollar bailouts or the Red Cross needing to step in is not the way forward, but a designated emergency fund can help everyone.

Floods hit Sheffield again last year and although they were not as serious as last time, it seems that lessons were not learned from 2007. This is an example of why all of us, next time, need to be ready.

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