A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I've Never Seen It This Bad!

Great Mississippi Flood of 1927
This is a common complaint of those who have not been watching long enough. Comments on the terrible Mississippi floods of this winter and spring have often included such thoughts. But, who is old enough to recall the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, "the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States." In fact, there is enough similarity between 2016 and 1927 to wonder if there was a strong El Niño going on back then, too; say, during 1925-26, "one of the most intense [el Niños] of the twentieth century."

Aftermath of Hurricane of 1938
We saw the same thing recently when "Superstorm Sandy" replicated the strength and path of the Hurricane of 1938 a/k/a "The Long Island Express" (they weren't given names back then). Sandy tracked a little bit farther west that the Express and its brush along the Jersey shore created more devastation on land, but this was only fortuitous.

Everything old is new again, as the song runs. But because we run on short-term memory, we lose perspective when the 24/7 news blender desperately hypes everything as unprecedented.

"[M]en are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: one might say that they are blinded by it." 
 -- Hillaire Belloc


  1. The Benedictine monastery north of Covington, LA (St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College) suffered devastating damage during the recent flooding ($3 million in clean-up alone; not sure what the restoration costs will be). The '27 Flood did not do the damage that this flooding did.

    I don't know whether or not the actual rains this year were more/worse than in 1927, but I do think that one reason that the flooding *seems* worse is because more and more, ground that used to be able to soak up the rain is covered over with concrete and asphalt; or built up for housing developments.

    But, the water has to go somewhere. Consequently, places that "never used to flood" are having to deal with the run-off.

    1. Also, the dollar is worth less today, so the nominal value of the damage is much greater.

    2. Even if concrete and asphalt aren't a factor, the flood is also simply more damaging because there are more human habitations present for it to affect.

    3. Possible other matter-- I don't know about LA in the 20s, but northern California in the 20s, the only way you'd record damage would be something like a newspaper saying "X, Y and Z was destroyed" or "everything that the A family couldn't move was utterly soaked in water."

      Differences in wiring are also to be considered. (I have not the foggiest what it was like in LA, and only a little what it was like at that point in our specific area of NorCal.)

    4. On a more depressing line-- in the last decade or so there has been a lot of undoing of basic flood controls, most famously via the Army Corps having new policies about where they prevent flooding, generally on environmental grounds.

    5. Example:

  2. TheOFloinn: You've got a great point about the value of the damage. Thank God, however, that the flooding (so far) hasn't damaged the Abbey's glorious murals, which are irreplaceable at any price. They were done by Benedictine Dom Gregory de Wit. They include the largest painting of the Last Supper in the United States (in the refectory). Take a gander:

    Sophia's Favorite: You're right about that. In south Louisiana, people are fleeing the cities, even the small towns, to move "to the country", where flooding only bothered the cows in the past.

  3. TOF,
    I hope that you will pardon me for a comment which would make more sense as an email, but I couldn't find any email address for you, and I was wondering if you might be willing to give me your thoughts on the subject I talk about in this blog post about Science, Magic, and Technology: — It's a subject I suspect you've thought about not inconsiderably.


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