Posted originally on Huffington Post
Near the Mississippi Headwaters, June 11, 2008 -- I am writing this an hour's drive from the Mississippi Headwaters -- you know, that place where you can walk across the Mississippi by stepping from stone to stone -- and it is raining cats and dogs, thunder and lightning galore, four inches or more expected today, and parts of Minnesota to the east are under flash flood warnings.
New Orleans is not alone. Catastrophic dam failures are occurring up and down the Mississippi watershed today in the "Flood of 2008," which has the potential to eclipse the Midwest flood of 1993 in tragic consequences. In Lake Delton, Wisconsin, an Army Corps of Engineers' embankment failed, emptied a 267 acre lake that was the centerpiece of a recreation area, and the torrent of water destroyed homes while carving a new channel into the Wisconsin River. Underground sewer lines were shredded and raw sewage isn't seeping, it is poring out of the broken system and entering the watershed. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have teams in the state Wednesday to help assess flood damage. Given FEMA's track record in New Orleans, Wisconsin should not rest easy.
All of the water from where I sit at my desk ends up here on the Mississippi Delta.
"No Idea" What the Corps is Doing
In Cedar Falls Iowa, spokeswoman Susan Staudt told The Huffington Post earlier today (Wednesday) that volunteers and sandbags appear to be holding back the waters of the Cedar River.
If the makeshift barriers fail, downtown Cedar Falls (population 35,000) will be under "several feet of water," Staudt said. The flood stage is 88 feet. At 5 a.m. the river gauge read 101.8 feet. As of 9:30 a.m. the reading was 101.24, Staudt added.
Staudt spoke to The Huffington Post from a cell phone in Cedar Falls City Hall at 10 a.m. She said the skies "looked ominous," and that it was raining. "Quite frankly, the only forces keeping the water from breaching the barriers are the thousands of volunteers who are sandbagging," she said.
Staudt's biggest concerns now are the boils which are cropping up all along the levee. What about the Army Corps of Engineers? "Are they helping you?" we asked.
Staudt replied tersely that she had "no idea what the Corps was doing," but that the National Guard was out in force to assist her crews. What Staudt did not say spoke volumes.
But there is more. Lots more.
In Iowa City, waters topped the spillway at the Coralville Reservoir. Residents in the flooded center of town were told to evacuate and news footage last night showed volunteers hauling boxes of documents from a newly built government building.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, on John McCain's short list for Vice-president, signed an executive order Tuesday declaring a state of emergency in two counties hit by flooding in Minnesota's southeast corner. Pawlenty is the same guy who vetoed infrastructure funding in the spring before the Interstate 35 bridge collapse last August. But no one talks about that anymore, either.
In Lawrenceville, Illinois a Corps of Engineers-built levee failed along the Wabash River on Tuesday.
Embarrassing Use of Words