Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Katrina,' 37 Flood Helped Teach Us How to Respond to Disaster ; COMMUNITY COMMENT

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Katrina,' 37 Flood Helped Teach Us How to Respond to Disaster ; COMMUNITY COMMENT

Article excerpt

Disasters matter, as Hurricane Sandy has told us once again. But too often disasters have played a minor role in our historical understandings. Some might be compelled to argue that the storm was "something that God intended to happen" but whether it was an act of divine judgment or nature gone rogue or some combination of the two, Sandy will not be ignored or forgotten. In 1937 the Great Flood of the Ohio and Mississippi River was the most destructive natural disaster America had experienced: it was the "Katrina" of the 20th Century.

Lessons learned in previous record floods - on the Ohio in 1913 and lower Mississippi in 1927 - together with this "thousand year flood," were embedded in federal policies establishing the system of floodwalls, levees, and reservoirs protecting the Ohio and lower Mississippi River valleys today. Floodwalls at Tell City, Evansville, and Paducah, Ky., levees at Hazleton and Harrisburg, Ill., and reservoirs such as Patoka Lake are evidence of the ongoing work of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Yet the story of how, in 1937, a coordinated response through our federal system of government met that disaster has been largely untold by the biographers of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the historians of the New Deal.

The contrast in public awareness about the 1937 flood and the one-two punch of hurricane and flood in 2005 we know as Katrina is remarkable.

Katrina and the federal response during the presidency of George W. Bush have not been forgotten. This week, journalists were quick to contrast the professionalism of FEMA Director Craig Fugate with the ineptness of his Katrina predecessor, Michael Brown, reminding us of President Bush's praise, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Brown, a former head of the International Arabian Horse Organization, brought virtually no emergency management experience to the position; Fugate was appointed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to head the state's office of Emergency Management following years of service in this field. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.