6-30-2006 If we pave it, they will come

In Democracy, the individual enjoys not only the ultimate power but carries the ultimate responsibility.--Norman Cousins

Well, the expected river crest levels were a wee bit off, so Wilkes-Barre still has all of itĎs stubby fingers and toes. Yes indeedy. Outstanding. Can I go to the frigginí movies today, or what?

Initially, I thought the mandatory evacuation order was a bit much. But, in retrospect, Iím figuring it was the correct call. Even if the dikes in, say, south Wilkes-Barre had folded like a cheap imported suit, with the majority of the residents looking on from higher ground, we wouldnít have ended up on our roofs holding up signs for hovering television news helicopters. Nope. No New Orleans going on here. No mass confusion. No mass hysteria. No masses of humanity stranded. No widespread looting. No flooded nursing homes. No flooded school busses. No shots fired. Or, in other words, not a damn thing we can blame on George W. Bush. Gee, that sucks.

Nope. Here in Culm County, the local boys took care of business rather than sitting idly by and then blaming everyone higher on the political food chain for their lack of action.

Nope. Didnít need FEMA. Didnít need PEMA. Didnít need Dubya to federalize National Guard units. Didnít need AMTRAK trains. Didnít need trailers. Didnít need teenagers driving busloads of evacuees out of the flood zone. Nope. Didnít need a single teat to latch onto.

Nope. Nothing here to bash Bush over the head with. So, itís off to the next natural disaster with those leftist fingers crossed. Maybe next time. Maybe somebody somewhere will self-victimize themselves and allow themselves to be used by those looking to score some political points.

Tom Leighton, Skrep and Vodd Tonderheid are all Democrats. And they saw to it that a repeat of Katrina was not going to happen here. What were they thinking? They scuttled a great opportunity to embarrass the president by ensuring public safety during a time of crisis. They had better steer well clear of Howard Dean Ďcause heís sure to scream the lot of them deaf.

Nope. No need for FEMA here.

We have capable leaders.

From The Citizensí Voice:

Gov. Ed Rendell praised the evacuation at a news conference in Harrisburg on Thursday.

"That evacuation was smart, it was proper, it was appropriate, it was made in the name of caution," Rendell said. "With the secondary roads being damaged, had the dikes broken, you could have had a New Orleans-type situation in Wilkes-Barre. They did the appropriate thing."

No bicycling on the riverĎs edge today

So, why is it that the Susquehanna has gotten to freaking out so often? Weíve had to deal with this flooding nonsense in very early 1996, late 2004, early 2005 and now mid 2006. Are we seeing a trend here? Ten years and four serious flooding events.

Hereís an e-mail I fired off to Sue Henry at WILK yesterday afternoon:

From the e-mail outbox Suzie Q,

The new and improved dikes held, the scrapbooks are all safe and sound and the Wyoming Valley breathes a collective sigh of relief. All is well again.

But, isn't it somewhat perplexing that the unfathomable happened when the Susquehanna River at Towanda crested before it did down here at Wilkes-Barre? I'm sure that some well-respected hydrologist can explain that happening away as part of some once-in-a-lifetime anomaly, but I'm here to suggest to you that unchecked urban sprawl, namely, the clear-cutting of forests only to be replaced by asphalt, has undeniably added to the unpredictability of the river tenfold.

In this area (as in most others) progress seems to be measured by the square footage of brand spanking new paved parking lots just up the hill a ways. But...nary a thought seems to have gone into stormwater management.

While we debate the laughably dubious merits of erecting an inflatable dam at Wilkes-Barre and thereby completely submerging the absolute worst of our much-dated sewage outflows that are spilling untreated sewage directly into the river unabated, the river swelled to the top of it's banks once again and threatened life and limb.

Yes, it's been raining since, like, last year or something, but proper, forward-thinking stormwater planning could have prevented the mass evacuations, the closed bridges and the rumor hotlines. Heavy, heavy rain events can and do wash-out rural roads, smallish bridges and 100-year-old dams. But the Susquehanna River's infrequent, yet sometimes frightening impact upon this valley could be severely lessened if low-impact development techniques became not only the 'norm, but mandated by zoning codes everywhere.

While the urbanization of upstream watersheds goes on completely unnoticed by the hoi polloi, Solomon Creek and Mill Creek right here in Wilkes-Barre become raging torrents all too often. And if the 'Growing Greener' of Pennsylvania--the replacement of pristine forests with asphalt--continues at it's current breakneck pace, we should not only expect near calamitous events such as we experienced these past few days, we should fully expect the Susquehanna River to one day flow over the top our newfangled dikes and endanger the lot of us all over again.

To channel suddenly engorged waters from one community to the next makes about as much sense as being shocked when those very same waters begin to threaten all that we hold so near and dear. We need to seriously examine why it is that storm run-off was not even an issue before we set about replacing hills of green with hills of black.

We need much more thought given to post-construction stormwater management. We need many, many more stream buffers. We need erosion and sediment control. Instead, we get more gargantuan parking lots and cheap imports that'll surely be shipped off to the nearest landfill lickety split.

We need the long-recognized combined sewage outflow problem rectified now rather than later. We need not an inflatable dam. What we need is responsible leadership. And unless stormwater management somehow supercedes the oft-ravenous need to pave it now and hurriedly sandbag it later, Wilkes-Barre's dikes will one day be completely overwhelmed.

If we pave it, they will come.

The stormwaters, that is.

Markie in Nord End

(There was a major typo in that e-mail. The Susquehanna River at Towanda crested after it did down here at Wilkes-Barre, which is not what typically happens when the river gets to swelling from New York all the way to who knows where. Sorry. I guess I was enjoying way too much of my evacuation supplies.)

No Nord End Baseball today

This is bullspit, man. A slew of County Sheriffís ordered me off of the dike yesterday afternoon in a very demonstrative manner, but they let this goober do a swan dive off of the North Street (Pierce Street) bridge. Itís patently unfair, man. Itís just not fair.

AP Video: Daredevil Dives Into Flooded River

From the e-mail inbox Well Mark, In the recent flood in Shavertown, the turds were 6 inches deep coming out of the manholes (covers blew off) Went into Tobies creek and joined some more from the sewer plant at the cut in Luzerne and traveled on down to the Susquehanna. Inflatable Dam?? I think not. you are correct; clean the waterways up first. ShXXX

As I said, if we erect that dam, the absolute worst of the sewage outflows will be completely submerged by the heightened river. And when it rains like all hellÖsewage running through the streets of Wilkes-Barre is a distinct possibility. But donít tell Paul Kanjorski. He has his flawed feasibility study and heís sticking with it.

The long and short of it is, if we continue to pave what little of Wilkes-Barre Township that hasnít been paved over yet, we will flood some community downstream of us. And if they keep paving over the hills and valleys north of us, weíre going to be flooded at some point. Itís simple.

And I like simplicity.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

I went up to the cabin on Tuesday to pull my trailer up. At that time there was little talk of flooding, but the neighbors recommended I get up there pronto. Glad I did because if I had waited until Wednesday I would never have gotten through. As it were, rock slides at both ends of Keelersburg road and Thurston Hollow road having been under water actually trapped us in our little river front community for nearly three days. All we could do was wait. All of the neighbors pitched in and helped each other (as good neighbors do) and we shared our resources (beer) while waiting for the worst. But the predictions of the weathermen were wrong (thank God) and I only got 6" of water in my basement vs. the 10 ft. I was expecting.

But on the way home today I saw what all of the fuss was about. Every creek along the way had left an almost unimaginable wake of destruction. The folks along Bowman's Creek got it really bad. Houses washed away, house trailers bent around trees and roads washed out everywhere. You can't imagine how lucky I feel compared to the poor bastards I saw on the way home. There aren't any words to describe what I saw. So I thought I'd send you a few pics of the storm damage.


Kayak Dude told me the best time to kayak on the river is right after a high-water event. Heís told me of all kinds of wild debris being beached on islands, stuck in trees and wedged against any strainer that presents itself.

While on the river north of Wyalusing this past January, I saw a dead deer wedged in a tree high overhead. Stupidly, I didnít get a picture. While paddling past a campground at the riverís edge somewhere near Falls, I saw an old International Scout sitting in the river all by itís lonesome. Two weeks ago, while taking in the yearly RiverFest trip, I spied a paddleboat wedged into some trees just north of Forty Fort. We should have latched onto the thing and towed it back somehow. Maybe I could have paddled it back. KD showed us what little remains of a camper trailer that was beached on an island during the Agnes flood where the Wyoming Massacre was once fought. In Ď72 it was almost intact. These days, there ainít much left to see.

Itís a good thing yíall had plenty of beer on hand. Living on the shore of a river prone to flooding, proper disaster planning is a must.

You never know what areas will get pounded during these flooding skirmishes. Go figure. The Back Mountain got pummeled beyond belief, while Wilkes-Barre got a big puddle in the area around Barney Street. I guess thereís just no accurately predicting this flooding stuff sometimes, so keep an extra keg on hand at all times. Better safe than sober. Something like that. I dunno.

Iím glad you were spared the worst, though. Who needs that sort of hassle?

Stay in touch.

Harryís Photo Slideshow

No digital movies yesterday

Guess where Iím off to today? You got it, baby!

The grandrodents are coming to town and weíre heading down to Wilkes-Barre Movies 14 to see ďCars.Ē No, not the Cars, like, with Ric Osasek pretending that he can sing. Weíre taking in the animated Disney version of Cars.

Can you say Junior Mints? Yummy.