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Levees failing along the Mississippi

Disasters Man-made Mississippi River 2008

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#1 Peridot

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 12:21 AM

Flooding overwhelms archaic levee system

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So far, at least 20 levees along the Mississippi have overtopped this week, and another 20 to 30 are at risk.

It is too soon, say officials, to determine which ones may have failed before the water spilled over the top and which ones breached due to weakening after the water had overflowed.

Each day brings news of more levees overtopped or breached. Some are smaller agricultural levees built to 30- or 40-year flood standards, while others are higher, designed to protect river towns.

And it's not just about Mother Nature...it's about construction standards.

Quote

But experts say it's hardly surprising, especially given the low standards to which most levees are built.

To qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program, structures simply need to be behind a levee built to a so-called 100-year standard, meaning there is a 1 percent chance in any given year that a flood will rise above the levee. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, levees for ocean flooding are built to a 10,000-year standard, and inland levees are designed at least to a 250-year standard and usually in excess of 1,250 years.

"Around the world, the 100-year standard is a joke," says John Barry, author of "Rising Tide," his book about the Mississippi River flood of 1927, and a member of a flood control authority that oversees six levee districts in metropolitan New Orleans. "We invest on the cheap."

I've been a little surprised that no one has posted about this yet...maybe we don't have a lot of members who are either from the US Midwest or have lived there in the past.

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#2 FnlPrblm

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 07:01 PM

^Yeah, I would say that it's a tad bit surprising.  As you and I have spoken, there are a couple members dealing directly with this. :(  So my sympathies go out to them for dealing with it and any possible loss they have incurred.

On the flip side of the coin with all of this, everyone nation (and internationally) wide will be effected by this.  Food and supplies which generally use the Mississippi River as a major transporation device and hub, are unable to ship things during the high (and fast) waters (ontop of the unpredictability of a levee breaking as a barge goes by and gets shipwrecked).  And not only is the Mississippi barge traffic being effectively halted, I'm quite sure the railroads are thinned out as well.  So not only are goods/food not transporting north and south, but also east and west.  

Result being many of the foods you buy will be higher shortly.
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#3 Banapis

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 07:27 PM

View PostFnlPrblm, on Jun 25 2008, 08:01 PM, said:

Food and supplies which generally use the Mississippi River as a major transporation device and hub, are unable to ship things during the high (and fast) waters (ontop of the unpredictability of a levee breaking as a barge goes by and gets shipwrecked).
That reminds me of a series of photos showing just how dangerous the currents caused by high water can be to towboats:

http://koti.mbnet.fi...ier/towboat.htm

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#4 Annibal

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 07:42 PM

I find this really terrible. I was in Fond du Lac Wisconsin while it was flooding there, sand bagging and stuff. It was really bad, and that was a more moderate area.

A part of me, the callous, cynical part thinks "shouldn't be living in a flood plain! While the more human side of me is like, that's half the friggin country, moron (to myself). Plus, I'm living in a fire danger area AND a flood danger area, so then I'm like...doubly stupid.

But I am against levees. They work temporarily, but really when something like this happens they only exacerbate the problem. Of course, I don't have an alternate solution other than "don't live there," which is unrealistic.

My thoughts go out to those who are effected by this.
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#5 FnlPrblm

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 08:28 PM

View PostBanapis, on Jun 25 2008, 07:27 PM, said:

View PostFnlPrblm, on Jun 25 2008, 08:01 PM, said:

Food and supplies which generally use the Mississippi River as a major transporation device and hub, are unable to ship things during the high (and fast) waters (ontop of the unpredictability of a levee breaking as a barge goes by and gets shipwrecked).
That reminds me of a series of photos showing just how dangerous the currents caused by high water can be to towboats:

http://koti.mbnet.fi...ier/towboat.htm

Banapis

That was pretty cool actually. lol  Still, something tells me that they weren't seaworthy for awhile after this.  (They powered it up afterwards so they could attempt to beach it, it looks like.)

View PostAnnibal, on Jun 25 2008, 07:42 PM, said:

I find this really terrible. I was in Fond du Lac Wisconsin while it was flooding there, sand bagging and stuff. It was really bad, and that was a more moderate area.

A part of me, the callous, cynical part thinks "shouldn't be living in a flood plain! While the more human side of me is like, that's half the friggin country, moron (to myself). Plus, I'm living in a fire danger area AND a flood danger area, so then I'm like...doubly stupid.

But I am against levees. They work temporarily, but really when something like this happens they only exacerbate the problem. Of course, I don't have an alternate solution other than "don't live there," which is unrealistic.

My thoughts go out to those who are effected by this.

Well, even towns which aren't necessarily built in a flood plain or on/along the river are being flooded.  For instance, a town/city like Alton, Illinois sits a bit higher than sea level.  Saint Charles, Missouri (part of the metropolitan area of Saint Louis) is mostly well above sea level.  However, as you point out (and I agree with), levees along the rivers exacerbate the problem.  The water has to go somewhere.  And the more levees which are built to protect natural flood plains, the more the rest of the river-sides are in danger.  Levees aren't the answer and once again, I'm hoping the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will make a call to the Dutch to see what can be the best plan of attack for this.

Considering that most of the levees in place are deteriorating to the point of needing to be replaced anyway, I think it's a grand and opportune time for this all to happen.
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." --- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Beryl Coronet

The Boscombe Valley Mystery: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


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#6 Annibal

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 11:09 AM

^ Being in a flood plain and being at sea level are different :) For example, I live over 5,000 ft above sea level, but in the path of flood waters if a dam upstream breaks. It's because my house is so close to the river, I am in the path of a flood if a flood of sizeable magnitude occurs. Not all floods would reach my house, but a big one could. And most floods would reach houses right along the river. So it can become a question of "pretty or practical?" Like those in SoCal who build large, beautiful houses where landslides are common, likely, or possible, and then when one happens they are surprised. Same with tornadoes in the plains, or flat regions, etc.


But looking back on your post I don't think that's what you meant, so I guess I'll amend myself to say I mean not building in floodplains as an alternative to levees. Or perhaps build houses in the flood plains on reinforced slilts, assuming they could be engineered to withstand the torrent, erosion, etc. Then allow the floods to occur naturally. Also not really likely, maybe not even practical. But trying to change natural happenings typically leads to a larger problem. Like with wildfires. They happen for a reason, and get rid of overgrowth and dead plants on the ground. The more they're prevented, the more it builds up, and the bigger the fire is when it gets going.
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#7 Kosh

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 11:34 AM

After the interstate bridge this past year, interstate bridges around the country were inspected. How many Levees were inspected after Katrina? Something for me to investigate, given time.

Hmm:

http://www.iwr.usace....cfm#USACElevee


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Quote

REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.

Edited by Kosh, 26 June 2008 - 11:52 AM.

Can't Touch This!!

#8 Raina

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 04:17 AM

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 09:34 AM, said:

Not real smart about chosing the program name.

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REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.
:howling:

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#9 Nonny

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 09:20 AM

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 09:34 AM, said:

Not real smart about chosing the program name.

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REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.
Geez!   :rolleyes:

Out my way, four inches of water roaring through a usually dry wash carries your car away.  I can't imagine the scope of this flooding.   :(
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#10 Kosh

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 11:44 AM

View PostNonny, on Jun 27 2008, 10:20 AM, said:

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 09:34 AM, said:

Not real smart about chosing the program name.

Quote

REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.
Geez!   :rolleyes:

Out my way, four inches of water roaring through a usually dry wash carries your car away.  I can't imagine the scope of this flooding.   :(


If it weren't for the video from the news, I'd have a hard time getting my head around whole towns and cities being so under water that they will most likley be torn down, and the town move to higher ground.
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#11 Peridot

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Posted 27 June 2008 - 02:19 PM

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 12:34 PM, said:

After the interstate bridge this past year, interstate bridges around the country were inspected. How many Levees were inspected after Katrina? Something for me to investigate, given time.

Hmm:

http://www.iwr.usace....cfm#USACElevee


Not real smart about chosing the program name.

Quote

REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.

Oh, lordy... :rolleyes:  They should switch the words around.  IRP wouldn't be so bad... :D


View PostNonny, on Jun 27 2008, 10:20 AM, said:

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 09:34 AM, said:

Not real smart about chosing the program name.

Quote

REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.
Geez!   :rolleyes:

Out my way, four inches of water roaring through a usually dry wash carries your car away.  I can't imagine the scope of this flooding.   :(


As of last week,  there were five million acres flooded.

Crops threatened by levee overflows

That translates to approximately 8000 square miles. :(

Quote

Estimates are that 5 million acres across the Midwest have been ruined and will not produce a crop this year.

Iowa and Illinois usually produce one-third of all U.S. corn and soybeans. Expectations of reduced crops from the main sources of livestock feed, renewable fuels like ethanol, starch and edible oils has sent commodity prices to record highs.

And that was last week....I'm not sure how much more has been flooded since then, but that is plenty.  :unsure:

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#12 FnlPrblm

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 04:04 AM

View PostKosh, on Jun 26 2008, 11:34 AM, said:

After the interstate bridge this past year, interstate bridges around the country were inspected. How many Levees were inspected after Katrina? Something for me to investigate, given time.

Hmm:

http://www.iwr.usace....cfm#USACElevee


Not real smart about chosing the program name.

Quote

REHABILITATION AND INSPECTION PROGRAM (RIP)

Maam, were from RIP, here to inspect your levee.

:lol:  great...

View PostKosh, on Jun 27 2008, 11:44 AM, said:

If it weren't for the video from the news, I'd have a hard time getting my head around whole towns and cities being so under water that they will most likley be torn down, and the town move to higher ground.

It's what happened in '93 and '95.  Several towns did just that.  Some stayed (and are getting flooded out again) while some others have modified their places and towns to some degree.  I saw one guy, on the local news, who after the last flood, fortified his house with a ten foot concreate wall surrounding his house.  He said his neighbors mocked him for doing such a crazy thing, but he was determined not to lose everything again.  Guess who's house is still dry.

View PostPeridot, on Jun 27 2008, 02:19 PM, said:

As of last week,  there were five million acres flooded.

Crops threatened by levee overflows

That translates to approximately 8000 square miles. :(

Quote

Estimates are that 5 million acres across the Midwest have been ruined and will not produce a crop this year.

Iowa and Illinois usually produce one-third of all U.S. corn and soybeans. Expectations of reduced crops from the main sources of livestock feed, renewable fuels like ethanol, starch and edible oils has sent commodity prices to record highs.

And that was last week....I'm not sure how much more has been flooded since then, but that is plenty.  :unsure:

Peridot

Most of the points along the rivers have crested and/or will be shortly.  Two reasons for this.  One, a couple of really bad thunderstorms hit north-east Missouri two days ago, slightly adding to the water levels.  Second being, that with the levees bursting, they aliviate just how high the river will rise.  The bad thing is though, that water eventually runs back into the river and thus prolongs the flooding in addition to possible multiple crests.
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." --- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Beryl Coronet

The Boscombe Valley Mystery: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


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"Once in one's life, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality; if not, one has not lived." -- Sylvester Stallone

Time to eat all your words, swallow your pride, open your eyes...Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears4Fears

#13 Rhea

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 04:18 AM

I guess the bottom line is that if people are going to continue to live below sea level, levees are going to have to be built to a much higher standard than they have been. We have the same problem in California with the Delta levees, and they're scrambling to fix them before something catastrophic happens.

The whole "la la la, I can't hear you" mentality that's been in full play for years when it comes to the levees is going to have to bite the dust. There's been information available for years showing the levees might fail. Makes really good sense to wait, huh?  :wacko:   :(
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#14 FnlPrblm

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 06:21 PM

^Yeah, four words are in the minds of the Corps when discussing levees:
-Money
-floods
-might (fail)

Really though, you can't blame them for some of it.  I'm sure it's frustrating to be one of the people in the industry who have answers, but don't have either the go aheads or funds to get things done.
"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." --- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Beryl Coronet

The Boscombe Valley Mystery: "There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson 'Art,' 1841

"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once, 'Tis hard to reconcile." --- Macbeth IV.III.138-9


LauraBertram.net

"Once in one's life, for one mortal moment, one must make a grab for immortality; if not, one has not lived." -- Sylvester Stallone

Time to eat all your words, swallow your pride, open your eyes...Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears4Fears



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