A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

I want to take a few minutes and talk about two cities.   Both were threatened with catastrophic flooding.  Both had adequate warning.  The results were far different.

The first city is Fargo North Dakota.

This city has a river, called the Red River, running on it’s eastern border.  In 1997 this river overflowed it’s banks and devastated the city.  This year again the Red River was predicted to crest above the recently built and fortified levies.  A call went out from the Mayor’s office team asking for help. 

Thousands answered the call.  Volunteers not only from Fargo but neighboring towns and states flooded (pardon the pun) into the city to help with the sandbagging effort.  The North Dakota National Guard was activated to help, even South Dakota loaned it’s neighbor to the north 2500 National Guardsmen/women to help in the effort.  Local radio stations discontinued their regular programming and worked closely with the Mayor’s office coordinate the location and disbursement of volunteers.

After a Herculean effort by these thousands, the dikes and levies were built up to hold back a the Red River to a level of 43 feet.  More than three feet higher the record in 1997.  The river crested at just under 42’ and the city was spared.  The city suffered only minimal damage.

Two days after the crest volunteers were still in the Fargo Dome packing sand bags.  You see, the city was in the middle of a major blizzard and folks were concerned about a second crest when the new snow starts to melt. 

There was some light coverage on the national news.

The second city is New Orleans Louisiana.

In 2005 this city was told that a major hurricane was on the way in five days.  There was a chance that the levies would not hold.  The mayor’s office told people to evacuate and some did.  Many did not.  The hurricane missed the city and there was great sigh of relief.  Then the water came.

 Since they did nothing to prepare and the people who were supposed to monitor such things were unqualified patronage appointments, the levies failed.  Tens of thousands of people were trapped in their houses, thousands climbed onto the roofs and had to be rescued by Coast Guard, Navy and (later) National Guard helicopters.

Two days after the crest of the storm surge the Super Dome was turned in to a pile of refuse and human excrement.  The Mayor’s office of Emergency management and most of the Police force was not to be found. The Governor still refused to call up the Louisiana National Guard. 

The mayor was on the TV continually telling the world that it was the fault of federal government and the President of the United States that all this misery was upon them.

The national news was ablaze with story after story on the suffering that was caused by FEMA and the President.

Now I know that hurricane can cause far more catastrophic damage than a flooding river.  But in the case of New Orleans and Fargo, it was the flooding, not the storm, that was the problem.

One city worked hard, bringing individuals together to save their town, the other sat back and waited for the government to fix it.  The city that got it right is obvious.

This is not a Democrat vs. Republican thing.  In fact, the Mayor of Fargo is not a Republican.  This is a right verses wrong thing.  

The lesson to be learned here is that individuals, volunteering their time and energy, can be far more effective than any government agency (even a massive Federal one like FEMA).

One more thought….. What would happen in the news today if the Mayor of Fargo would get on the TV and say that, now that this is over, Fargo is going to be “Vanilla” again?

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Rick,

    I will say it one more time…welcome to the mid-west and the work ethics that are engrained into the people here.

    All the good stories of people and citys pulling themselves up by the boot straps to weather (no pun intended) the weather and the current economic striffs without the government stepping in will never be ran on the national news.

    Bottom story is that people seem to do the right thing in the mid-west.

    Hang in there as the movement has started to hold the people in D.C. that we will not take it any more.

    Greg

  2. Rick,
    I agree with Greg, the people in the US will eventually wake up and start demanding DC to act like they at least know what a calculator is.

    Tim Johnson voting against charitable tax deductions proves he is not with it. This hurts the most needy amongst us. I have been lucky to have never needed the services of the Salvation Army but I hope if I ever do they will be there to help. But Mr. Johnson must think they are not needed because he has the federal government to help him.


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