Monday, January 03, 2011

cities on a plain

there was a report on npr today from rockhampton, queensland where there is massive flooding. i wrote a quick email to mark young, who lives in rockhampton, to see if he's okay but recalled on earlier post on the floods that mark's house is on a hill where he said he is safe from the rising waters. mark wrote back that he's fine and that he posted a lengthy report on the floods here. whew!

sac is also on a floodplain and we've lived thru two major ones these past 25 years or so. i recall the major floods of 1986. i was 19 years old and living with my family. our house is located several blocks from the american river, one of two rivers in the sacramento region, the other is called the sacramento river. the american was rising fast. the main artery to get to higher ground, watt avenue, crossed the american about a half mile from our house and the waters were so high that the american river was lapping the botton of the span. the worry was if the levies that are used for flood control broke we'd be in serious trouble. we'd need a boat rather than a car to get out.

the levies did break in the delta area and the flooding there was catastrophic. it was horrible for places like rio linda, an agricultural community, as well as many other enclaves. the levies held in my neighborhood but there were seepages here and there. in the midst of the rains i was driving home from rosemont, a neighborhood about 3 miles from our house. the rains were so swift and heavy that the sewers backed up and began flooding the streets. when i got to my own street i hit a pool of water so large it swallowed the front of the vehicle. i thought the levy breached so i jumped out of the car and pushed it to the side of the road, and ran thru 3 ft of water the several blocks home.

having a boat on hand is not a bad idea for those of us who live in the sacramento valley. the levy systems were reinforced a few years ago relieving my section of town, east sac, the legal obligation of maintaining flood insurance. we kept the insurance. because it will flood again. nature has her own ways and cannot be stopped, maybe mitigated a bit, but never stopped. the history of sacramento is one of water. the rivers are what made this a great region for agriculture. but history is a long tale of bad planning and wishful thinking. last fall we took a tour of the underground tunnels of old sac. the tunnels exist because after a damaging flood in the mid-19th century city officials required building owners to raise their properties several feet. the raising of buildings created these cool, but now because of development quickly disappearing, underground passageways, but did not prevent future floods. how could it. i recall the the swift waters of the american and sacramento rivers in 1986 when it looked like the world as i knew it would be swallowed in a deluge. there's been other floods since then but i remember that year especially because how close the waters were to home, my home. it was scary as hell.


At 6:35 PM, Blogger Arunava Mukherjee said...


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