[2/14/17] Mother Nature has incredible power available at her fingertips — much more than we humans do. With water alone, she is able to destroy some of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. Water leveled the city of Miyako, Japan, in 2011, as a tsunami brought a wave surge 128 feet high. Water also destroyed much of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005.
Currently, Northern California is closely watching the destructive power of water, as the spillway for our nation’s highest dam, the Lake Oroville Dam, is crumbling.
What has caused the damage to that dam’s spillway? Just water. Erosion has created a 200-feet-long by 30-feet-wide rupture in the spillway, opening the way for more erosion. The emergency spillway is being eroded away rapidly, as well, as waters rise above the lake’s capacity.
Fortunately for residents downstream, the dam itself is holding. But should either spillway fail, which is a very real possibility, a 30-feet-tall wall of water could go rushing downstream. While that isn’t as bad as a 700-feet-tall wall of water, it has caused mass evacuations of the towns in the path of potential flooding. Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered from their homes, with no promise of when they’ll be able to return.
Were They Ready?
When events like this happen, I always find myself asking how many of those people were truly prepared. How many had an evacuation plan in place? How many had a place to go while they waited out the disaster? How many even had a bug-out-bag packed, so that they would have the basic necessities of survival?
While flood warnings were given to the major cities downstream, the towns closest to the dam itself only received an hour’s notice to evacuate. That’s barely enough time to gather up your family and jump in the car, let alone leaving in anything that resembles an organized manner. It literally meant grabbing what you can and running out the door, so that you can sit in traffic, as the highways aren’t built to accommodate an evacuation. Some invariably had to abandon their cars and proceed on foot once they ran out of gas.
The vast majority of those people ended up packed in shelters, set up by charities or the government. This left them with no privacy, little comfort and no way of protecting their property. Had they had plans in place for an emergency, they would have been able to go to a much better place, where they could be more comfortable as they awaited their fate.