(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘flood

“Managed retreat is not just a last resort. It is not a failure to adapt at all. It is actually an active decision to adapt.”*…

Community High School, Valmeyer, Illinois

The town of Valmeyer, Illinois relocated decades ago after devastating floods. It may have lessons for communities forced to consider a managed retreat from climate impacts today…

In the summer of 1993, the southwestern Illinois town of Valmeyer took the brunt of a massive flood when, not once but twice in a month, the swollen Mississippi River topped its levee system. The village was engulfed in up to 16ft (5m) of floodwater that lingered for months, damaging some 90% of buildings.

Faced with either rebuilding the town and risking yet another disaster, or simply scattering to other towns or states by themselves, the 900 residents of this tight-knit farming community made a bold choice: to pack up everything and start over on new ground.

In the years that followed, hundreds of people moved out of the floodplain as the entire town was rebuilt from scratch on a bluff a mile uphill. In doing so, the town has become an early example of one of the most radical ways a community can adapt to a warming world: moving people and assets out of harm’s way.

Known as managed retreat, or planned relocation, the approach is often framed as a last resort to be pursued only when no other alternatives exist. But as the effects of climate change intensify, exposing more and more people across the globe to the risk of catastrophic flooding, devastating fires and other calamitous natural hazards, the concept is increasingly making its way into the mainstream as a viable – and necessary – adaptation strategy…

When one can’t resist the effects of climate change (e.g., with a sea wall to hold back rising water levels), or accommodate it (e.g., using air cooling and “greening” to combat rising temperatures), the remaining option is retreat: “The Illinois town that got up and left,” from @BBC_Future.

See also: “Managed Retreat in the United States.”

Miyuki Hino

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As we rethink relocation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that rain storms led to floodwaters from the Great Miami River reaching Dayton, Ohio– causing the Great Dayton Flood, which lasted another five days. The volume of water that passed through Dayton during this storm equaled the monthly flow over Niagara Falls; downtown Dayton was submerged up to 20 feet.

More than 360 people died; 65,000 were displaced; nearly 1,400 horses and 2,000 other domestic animals died. 20,000 homes were destroyed and buildings were moved off of their foundations. Property damage to homes, businesses, factories, and railroads was estimated at more than $100 million in 1913 dollars (more than $2 billion in today’s dollars).

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“The highly motivated people in society are the ones causing all the trouble. It’s not the lazy unmotivated folks sitting in front of a TV eating potato chips who bother anyone.”*…

Americans consume about 1.85 billion pounds of potato chips annually– around 6.6 pounds per person. A history of our favorite snack…

When Covid-19 forced people to stay home, many of us found solace in a snack: potato chips. The crispy treats enjoyed around a $350 million increase in sales from 2019 to 2020. When the chips are down, it seems, Americans gobble them up.

Any search for the origins of this signature finger food must lead to George Crum (born George Speck), a 19th-century chef of Native and African American descent who made his name at Moon’s Lake House in the resort town of Saratoga Springs, New York. As the story goes, one day in 1853, the railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt was eating at Moon’s when he ordered his fried potatoes be returned to the kitchen because they were too thick. Furious with such a fussy eater, Crum sliced some potatoes as slenderly as he could, fried them to a crisp and sent them out to Vanderbilt as a prank. Rather than take the gesture as an insult, Vanderbilt was overjoyed.

Other patrons began asking for Crum’s “Saratoga Chips,” which soon became a hit far beyond Upstate New York. In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant near Saratoga known as Crum’s House or Crum’s Place, where a basket of potato chips sat invitingly on every table. Crum oversaw the restaurant until retiring over 30 years later; in 1889, a New York Herald writer called him “the best cook in America.” Crum died in 1914, but today’s astounding variety of potato chips, from cinnamon-and-sugar Pringles to flamin’ hot dill pickle Lay’s, are a tribute to the man American Heritage magazine called “the Edison of grease”…

George Crum, whose exasperation with Cornelius Vanderbilt reputedly helped spark America’s craze for potato chips

A fussy magnate, a miffed chef and the curious roots of the comfort food we hate to love: “How the Potato Chip Took Over America,” from @SmithsonianMag.

* George Carlin

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As we try to eat just one, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that a storage tank ruptured and three million gallons of soybean oil flooded streets in Mankato, Minnesota, then flowed in the Mississippi River.

Stan Eichten was working in the office of Honeymead Soybean Products [the largest oil-processing facility in the world at the time]… when one of the biggest environmental disasters in state history hit.

“There was a roar, like an explosion,” said Eichten of the rupture of a soy oil storage tank that sent millions of gallons into Mankato streets and the Minnesota River. “It was almost like a tsunami. There was oil 2 or 3 feet deep all over.”

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“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth”*…

Preserving precious publications…

It all started in 1994. The flooding of the Po river and its tributaries had just swept away entire villages in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, leaving behind only death and debris. The whole of Italy was shocked. Of all the damage broadcast on television, one caused a particular sensation: In the village Santo Stefano Belbo, the historical archive of Cesare Pavese, one of the most famous and beloved Italian writers, was buried in mud.

The debacle particularly impressed a man named Pietro Livi, president of Frati & Livi in Bologna, a company that had been restoring and conserving ancient texts for nearly 20 years. At that time, however, no one in Italy was equipped for this kind of rescue. In the past, flooded and muddy documents were entrusted to companies that used basic restoration methods that proved both invasive and ineffective: The books were simply placed in ovens or air-dried in large rooms, which often left the texts unusable and made mold only proliferate.

So Livi decided to find out if anyone in Europe had found a more effective way to save these invaluable records of human achievement. Finally, in Austria, Livi found a freeze dryer that held some promise, but it was too big and costly for a small artisanal company like his. Then, in 2000, the Po river overflowed again. In the city of Turin, entire archives belonging to distinguished institutes and libraries ended up underwater.

At a loss for what to do, Italy’s Archival Superintendency of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage summoned Livi. By this time, Livi had established a solid reputation as a master restorer, having studied the art of book restoration with Benedictine friars. But he realized that for a project of this scope, his expertise was no longer enough; he needed a kind of Renaissance workshop, where he could collaborate with professionals from a variety of disciplines. Livi believed that the time had come where the world of artisan knowledge and the world of technology, too often considered as opposites, had to talk to each other—for the benefit of one another…

Then, on November 12, 2019, the city of Venice, one of the world’s most mythical and most admired locales, suffered its worst flood in 53 years. The swollen lagoon soaked roughly 25,000 valuable texts, including the last surviving original of one of Vivaldi’s musical scores. Frati & Livi was quickly called to the scene…

In the city of Bologna, home to the western world’s oldest university, Pietro Livi developed an unusual machine shop—part artisanal and part high-tech—built to restore damaged ancient texts to their former glory. And then came Venice’s historic floods of 2019: “Italy’s Book Doctor,” from @CraftsmanshipQ.

* “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” – Anne Lamott

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As we celebrate craft, we might we spare a thought for publishing pioneer Condé Montrose Nast; he died on this date in 1942.  After serving as Advertising Director at Colliers, then a brief stint in book publishing, Nast bought a small New York society magazine called Vogue— which he proceeded to turn into the nation’s, then the world’s leading fashion magazine.  While other periodical publishers simply sought higher and higher circulation, Nast introduced the “lifestyle” title, targeted to a group of readers by income level or common interest.  By the time of his death, his stable of monthlies also included House & Garden, British, French, and Argentine editions of Vogue, Jardins des Modes, (the original) Vanity Fair, and Glamour; subsequently, the group added such resonant lifestyle books as Gourmet, New Yorker, and Wired.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 19, 2021 at 1:00 am

“The beaver told the rabbit as they stared at the Hoover Dam: No, I didn’t build it myself, but it’s based on an idea of mine”*…

Of all the things that humanity builds from concrete or stone, there are few structures that influence the surface of Earth quite as profoundly as a dam.

By blocking the flow of a river, we dare to defy gravity’s pull on water from mountain to estuary – and influence the trajectory of geology itself. A dam does so much more than submerge a valley to create a reservoir: it transforms a river’s natural course, accruing silt and sediment at an artificial barrier, and dampening water’s erosional force downstream

Their vertiginous walls, striking shapes and deep foundations will also leave a unique archaeological imprint. Some of these engineered monoliths are so enormous that they may be preserved for millennia.

Meanwhile, dams can also bring deep changes for the people who live nearby, and the generations that follow them. When a government in a distant capital decides to exploit its rivers, destruction of local homes, farmland and livelihoods often follows. For example, while the rest of the world focused on Covid-19 earlier this year, an entire ancient town in Turkey was lost to rising reservoir waters. Long after we are gone, future archaeologists will study such submerged settlements and may wonder why we let them go for the sake of short-term politics and energy demand.

The effects can be felt a long way from home, too. Damming rivers that wind through continents, like the Nile in Africa, can withhold valuable water and power from countries downstream, forever changing the trajectories of those nations…

Few human structures can change a landscape quite like a dam– a pictorial essay: “How dams have reshaped our planet.”

* Nobel laureate Charles H. Townes

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As we interrogate interruption, we might recall that it was on this date in 1570 that the All Saints Flood broke dikes and overwhelmed the Dutch (and parts of the German) coast. At least 20,000 people were drowned and many times that many left homeless; livestock was lost in huge numbers; and winter stocks of food and fodder were destroyed. In Zeeland the small islands Wulpen, Koezand, Cadzand, and Stuivezand were permanently lost.

Drawing by Hans Moser in 1570 of the flood

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 1, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Disasters are called natural, as if nature were the executioner and not the victim”*…

 

The United States is an enormous country, spanning mountains, deserts, forests, prairie, tundra, and more. This varied terrain is also home to many natural hazards spawned by air, water, fire, and forces beneath the Earth’s surface.

Some of these threats are dramatic; the United States and its territories have the greatest number of active volcanoes of any country except Indonesia, as well as the most tornadoes. Other hazards, like heat waves, are less flashy but can still kill you.

Different regions of the country face very different hazards. But which part of the United States is the most dangerous? It turns out there’s no simple answer, although the south does have a particularly generous share of hazards…

See how the country’s natural menaces differ by geography at “Where in the United States is nature most likely to kill you?

* Eduardo Galeano

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As we calculate our odds, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that New Richmond Tornado– an estimated F5 storm, formed in the early evening, and went on to tear a 45-mile long path of destruction through St. Croix, Polk and Barron counties in west-central Wisconsin, leaving 117 people dead, twice as many injured, and hundreds homeless.  The worst devastation wrought by the tornado was at the city of New Richmond, Wisconsin, which took a direct hit from the storm.  In all, more than $300,000 ($8,825,000 in today’s dollars) in damage was reported.  Still, it ranks as only the ninth deadliest tornado in United States history.

The ruins of New Richmond Methodist Church after the tornado

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 12, 2018 at 1:01 am

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