Sunday, May 26, 2013

Idea Garage Sale: We'r Fine, Y'all (But What if We Weren't?)

Casa Griffin is on high ground between two watersheds and the whole city would float away before we were troubled as long as we stayed home, which we tend to do, so whatever you've seen in the national news, you don't need to worry about us. A death toll of two is not very impressive in any case, but sweeping away a bus is. I've never seen a flood shut down bus service before.

Flooding is a recurrent factor here in San Antonio, with the city's fanciest districts located in the flood zones of waterways that are dry or insignificant-looking most of the time; but we're used to it. For the most part, we are good at floods, and getting better all the time. The locals who know better than to drive into running water (most of us) tend to be contemptuous at people who are so careless as to do so, and when the folks who live in those flood zones get notice to evacuate, they don't go back for the family silver, they evacuate. I don't remember the last time a vote to fund flood engineering failed around here. It sounds callous to say so, but for the most part people who need rescuing or die in flooding do so as a result of their own bad judgement, which is hardly a consolation to their relatives. Floods aren't like tornadoes, after all. You can make a reasonable guess at how flood water will behave, based both on experience and the known qualities of water. All the sensible decision-making in the world won't help you predict the movements and behavior of a tornado.

My calmness in the face of flooding has, of course, been paid for by preceding generations. Plenty of people have died in San Antonio in floods over the years; downtown was nearly washed away in 1865 and in 1921. I wish the local polities and citizens would react to drought the way we do to flooding, in fact. We learned from events of those years, spent the money to prepare ourselves for future similar events, developed a culture in which good flood management and sensible behavior during flood warnings can flourish. We're still monumentally stupid on the subject of droughts, which are far more common.

So what would it take, I wonder, to make a true flood disaster in San Antonio?

Alternatively, what kind of drought event would be sufficient to finally prod us into treating droughts with the same level of preparation and common sense that we apply to flooding?

It's not a story till it has characters; but the advantage of playing "what if?" with your hometown is, that you can stick yourself and your own family in as placeholders while you're developing the concept.

No comments:

Post a Comment