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Larry Warned Us: Why Weren’t We Sandbagging Big Mo Sooner?

As we rush to sandbag homes in Pierre, Ft. Pierre, Yankton, and Dakota Dunes, and as some residents of those areas prepare for awful long-term evacuation, Tom Lawrence of the Mitchell Daily Republic wonders why we didn't take action sooner:

Was the state ready for this? Why weren't the barriers erected or at least started weeks ago? How much damage will occur due to this? Does the Corps care what will happen or is it trying to do the best it can to cause the least damage?

The water had to pass through. We knew it was coming. Why the sudden rush rather than a well-designed plan? [Tom Lawrence, "How High Will the Water Go?" Republic Insider, 2011.05.30]

During a crisis, I am inclined to leave the finger-pointing to the guys telling me where to lay the next sandbags. But the craziest character in my daily blogosphere, Mr. Larry Kurtz, reminds me this morning that Tom Lawrence's questions are justified. Kurtz blogged about potential "epic" floods for the Upper Midwest back in January. His source, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner, pointed to broad climatological factors—heavy fall rains, heavy winter snow, and La Niña—that bade ill for the entire region.

My friend Larry says a lot of crazy things. But next time you feel like dismissing his interested commentary, remember what he said in January about our flooding.

Related: See also Doug Wiken's discussion of maps, the lack of good visual information on the flooding, and the likely coupling of paeans to self-reliance and pleas for federal assistance. Wiken also emphasizes an obvious lesson two former governors missed: don't build in the flood plain!

It is time we all realized that building homes a few feet away from any river or lake on water inches or a few feet above normal river level is probably not good sense and general taxpayers should not be stuck with the bill for making the same mistakes time after time. The restriction on flood plain construction in Rapid City indicated at least some learning from the disastrous flooding there [Doug Wiken, "100 Year Floods or 100 Year SNAFU?" Dakota Today, 2011.05.29].


  1. larry kurtz 2011.05.31

    Keeping my light under a bushel just to keep warm; still lots of snow on the Divide keeping wildfire at bay. Hills, too.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2011.05.31

    I as sure they did not want to dump it in the Mississippi when it was cresting. But the guy on TV who said they should have a balanced approach by letting some go in the winter when they see a large snow fall was right. We were so used to droughts that we forgot that we do get precip sometimes.

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