Monday, May 3, 2010

After The Deluge

Downtown Nashville, May 2. Photo by Keith Gallagher. See more of Keith's amazing images here.

We awoke to sunshine.

A sight for weary eyes all across Nashville, let me tell you.

This morning Mr. Beale reminded me that when we were house hunting 10 years ago I out-and-out refused to look at any home that had a creek anywhere nearby. Which let me tell you is a helluva lot of houses around here.

I had forgotten that. My old house near Vanderbilt always had water in the basement whenever it rained (indeed there was a drain in the floor for just such occasions), and that always scared the crap out of me. So we ended up buying a house on a hill with a massive storm water sewer drain behind it, something Public Works had installed years before.

Saved our bacon, let me tell you.

Some general thoughts on the Great Nashville Flood of 2010: Nashville really came through. As we’ve seen with ice storms, tornados, and other natural disasters, when the going gets tough Nashville pulls together. People put their differences aside, the petty squabbling that seems to dominate our regular discourse is discarded, and neighbors start helping one another. People with boats, canoes, kayaks--hell, the news even showed one kid on a surfboard--headed out into the rain to rescue stranded people. Okay, not sure what the kid with the surfboard was doing, but you get my drift.

Nashville, I know I’m hard on you, but you really made me proud. This is why I love you.

And Nashville you also did a great job of keeping people informed. Videos like this one helped bring the news of this disaster to people who had no other way of getting information on the severity of the flooding:

Once again I was amazed at the value of online tools like Twitter to keep me informed. Our local news media: not so much.

For most of Saturday we had Doppler radar color blobs dominating the local news. Let me tell you: a Doppler radar color blob and Lisa Spencer yammering on about “rotation” in some far-flung corner of the viewing area is not helpful. I’m glad our news stations have the money to spend on fancy gadgets like this but from a viewer’s perspective it really is not informative to us. It should be a tool you folks use to determine where to dispatch your reporters.

There was news happening on the ground, actual people stranded in buildings and culverts and cars floating away on I-24 and it took a long time for you guys to catch on to the fact that this is what you should be covering. Not a red blob on a map headed to Waverly or wherever.

Nationally, the news media has been a big fail. Aunt B wonders why we’ve been ignored, and I have to say this is yet more evidence that our glorious 24 hour news is incapable of covering more than two stories at once. Between the Gulf Oil spill, the thwarted Times Square car bomb, the Arizona immigration bill, Nerdprom, and Greece going bankrupt, it seems the poor dears in the national news media were just too tapped out to give any attention to a major metropolitan city drowning.

Again, this proves the value of the internet, and why new media is eclipsing old media in terms of actually informing people.

By the way, over in comments at Aunt B’s was this from Mike Turner:
Just got off a 24 hour shift, my crew at station 3 rescued 148 people and 1 dog in the last 24 hours. There were probably well over a thousand rescued city wide and it’s still going on. The TWRA guys were great, I don’t know what we would have done without their boats.

A hearty round of applause, hugs, beers all around, you name it to Nashville’s tremendous firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and every agency that worked their asses off this weekend. You guys are amazing. We are so grateful to have you. Thank you, thank you.

It will be interesting to see what if any changes the city will experience after the storm. I wonder if people will rethink where they live, where we allow development. I wonder if the great hole downtown where the Music City Center will be is now a giant swimming pool?

I wonder if we will still have our county elections tomorrow, since the voting machines are stored at the Fairgrounds and that was basically a river as of last night?

On a larger scale, I wonder if we will see this storm, not as a freak incident, but rather a sign of what’s to come? An acknowledgment that the earth isn’t some static, dead thing but rather a living system. That things like watershed, mountaintops and forests all serve a purpose, part of which is to protect us from floods and winds and lessen the severity of storms?

Nashville is not out of the woods yet. I just heard that we have some neighbors missing, and we are very concerned for news about them. Down the street from us the Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter and there are hundreds of people who have nowhere to go. Nashville still needs to pull together to get through this mess. Prayers and, as Aunt B notes, some national attention are needed.