Amanda Ripley

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Flooding with a View

30th Mar 2009 posted in Disaster Behavior

The Red River seems to be retreating, but Fargo residents are staring down a fierce snow storm (14-inches of snow and wind-whipped waves are among the biggest concerns), which could worsen flooding.

Why is this happening? And how could things be different? It seems that Fargoans decided long ago that the Red River wouldn’t deter them from building homes along the river. Development has flourished around the river, despite residents’ misgivings.  John Clement, a long-time Fargo resident, told the Canwest News Service: “Fargo is just plain flat. Really, nobody should live here.”

But, they do.  And it’s unlikely they’ll move after the current threat of flooding has passed.  The New York Times reports yesterday that Fargo residents were unreceptive to preventative plans after the 1997 flood: “Plans had been in the works for better flood control measures, but they have been snagged and stalled, said Mayor Dennis Walaker, by residents who complained about “how the project might block their views, might change the way their backyards looked.”

But if you are going to take a risk and have a nice view, you should get insurance.  Shockingly few of the locals have done so.

Perhaps flooding of the Red River can’t be entirely prevented (after all, this is an area so flat that preventative measures can’t compete with geography), but it’s pretty clear that much more can be done to prevent all-out disasters.  Federal money is not the only answer.