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Johnstown Flood: how relevant it is

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Southpaw Bookworm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-05-05 11:42 AM
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Johnstown Flood: how relevant it is
I've been listening to the CD version of David McCullough's book on the Johnstown flood of 1889, and the similarities between it and the current situation in NOLA are striking.

Both were caused in part by natural disasters but in part by the hubris and carelessness of the people in power. In both cases, experts had been warning of the dangers of neglecting engineering structures (dams in Johnstown, levees in NOLA), with industry exacerbating the situation (by dumping into the rivers, making the channel much more narrow and by building levees that caused much erosion and prevented the replenishment of silt). The indifference of those with the pursestrings was staggering. In both the death tolls ran into the thousands and class issues were front and center(in Johnstown, the areas closest to the river were populated by the immigrant ironworkers, while the dam that burst was holding back a manmade lake at a hunting and fishing retreat peopled by the likes of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick).

In both cases, many of the deaths were not immediate: In Johnstown, many floated down the river on rooftops or clinging to wood only to drown, be struck by debris, or in a horrible fire when the debris logjammed at a bridge. Afterward, reporters wrote lurid stories with little basis in fact of looting and the desecration of bodies for their jewelry. In Johnstown, almost universally it was the Hunkies (a catch-all moniker used to describe anyone from Eastern Europe who spoke with a thick accent and worked in the ironworks or mills) who were demonized as the perpetrators.

And in Johnstown, no one ever faced charges for negligence or for their role in the disaster.
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orpupilofnature57 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-05-05 09:30 PM
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1. That a couple of rocks moved or Not moved ,makes a big difference?
Edited on Mon Sep-05-05 09:31 PM by orpupilofnature57
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Southpaw Bookworm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-07-05 08:42 AM
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2. Could you explain?
What rocks are you talking about?
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orpupilofnature57 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-13-05 08:03 PM
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3. I'm sorry I got the impression that is was virtually a couple of ...
Edited on Tue Sep-13-05 08:04 PM by orpupilofnature57
rock to achieve the desired effect for a mill below.I didn't realize they actually built levees.
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bleedingheart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-07-06 10:16 PM
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4. The key similarity is the indifference of those in power
Frick and Carnegie were classic Social Darwinists. They felt that had what they had because they were "fitter" than the rest.

The only one of the millionaires if I recall who helped the people was Pitcairn who sent in railroad cars with some help...(he was a railroad baron)...but the rest didn't give a flying shit.

Where there are too many people fighting to scratch out a living, life is cheap and the wealthy and powerful take advantage of that.
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intheflow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-08-06 06:10 PM
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5. This is an interesting comparison.
I've been a long-term volunteer in Mississippi post-Katrina and have just been hired to be a community minister there. Part of my job will include conducting an orientation on race and economic justice. Substitute "oil and gas" for "steel and coal" as the monied, neglegent elite, and there are some hauntingly familiar similarities.

When I move/drive down there later this month, I was planning on bringing some books on cd. I think I'll bring this McCullough one. :thumbsup:


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DemFromMem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-19-06 09:11 PM
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6. warnings ignored
I thought the comparisons to Katrina were very interesting in the book, particularly the years of warnings that were ignored.

Another book with a similar theme is Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. The book is about the 1900 Galveston hurricane and a major theme in the book is how the US Weather Service arrogantly ignored the warnings of their Cuban counterparts. That storm killed 8,000 and is the worst disaster in US history.
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