Because it's 27 years in the past.
The Mississippi Flood of 1993. You're all familiar with it, of course, since it was a 500 year level flood and utterly devastated the entire middle of the country.
Oh, you haven't heard of it, or only vaguely remember it? Ah, that tells you what disasters are like in retrospect, doesn't it?
So let me tell you about six weeks of my life. I'll stick to the Good Parts Version.
We heard there was some flooding on the Mississip. And they asked for volunteers from the Guard. And lied to us about how many they needed. That's a story for elsewhere.
They flew us down in a Chinook, at about 1500 feet, as they do. Out the side of the aircraft, I can see fenceposts, trees, and the occasional inundated low-lying house. Oh, well that doesn't look too bad.
"Oh, no," the flight engineer says. "The river is 30 miles that way."
"Oh, ^@#$ me," I comment.
We land in East St Louis, and the Army screws up as it always does, but that's a story for elsewhere, too.
They deployed us from there to fill sandbags.
See, it had rained. A lot. And the Mississippi was full. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers had built a bunch of diversion reservoirs to take the excess flood water. But those were mostly kept full, because reservoirs are a great way to generate hydroelectoral power. Tell people they can put boats on them, and they'll vote for them. There was no need to drain them. It was just some rain.
It kept raining.
So the correct thing would have been to drain some reservoirs and refill with flood water. There's slack in the system, so a bit extra rain wasn't a problem. Also, if you drain the reservoir, they won't vote for you.
It kept raining.
It started flooding around Quad Cities. A lot of those houses are on stilts anyway. It floods all the time. So no big deal.
It kept raining.
Now, with nowhere for the water to go, it rose against the levees. The smart thing would have been to let it go, flood some fields, and write some disaster checks afterward.
But then they won't vote for you.
So the sandbagging started. The water would rise to the top of the levee, overwhelm the sandbags by sheer mass (water is 60 lbs per cubic foot), and flood the area behind them. Or, it would undermine the levees, creating what is technically known as "mud," and then create a "boil," which if you're silly, you cofferdam around while the rest of the mud washes away.
They did this thing.
The point here, though, is that the crest of the flood exerted maximum pressure, and would move ahead of the subsiding levees. So the areas in question still flooded. People just wasted a lot of effort delaying the inevitable a few hours. It was a complete waste of time and effort. But if you don't do it, they won't vote for you.
And it was still raining.
So the local emergency services, and the Guard, and volunteers, worked their way down the river, reinforcing levees that were guaranteed to fail, in order to be seen to be "doing something."
SIDENOTE: At one point they sent us to sandbag around a body shop. They wanted a 7 layer stack all the way around this shop. They were painting cars and rolling them out fast, and I figured they were trying to save customer cars quickly. Except they then rolled new cars IN. And it turned out they were 20 feet above flood level, but wanted to "just make sure," and the owner was the mayor's brother. We put a stop to that. But it indicates the point. Votes were at stake.
So we kept "doing something." And levees kept failing, land kept flooding, and that crest kept building higher.
ANOTHER SIDENOTE: There was actually a shooting war going on between Missouri and Illinois. They'd motor over on skiffs and try to knock down levees on the far side to relieve pressure on theirs. The myth that people cooperate in disasters? Only when they can spare resources. As soon as they THINK they can't, it's war. But, had any of them succeeded, it would have reduced the crest and lessened the effect lower down. Their solution was correct. It was just far too late to avoid massive repercussions.
They moved us to a water distribution point, because a local water system was "possibly contaminated." First day, it was Keystone Kops parking, with everyone panicking in to get their 1 gal per person per day. We had extra as a precaution and were told to just hand it out to avoid a panic. Keep in mind the city water was "possibly contaminated" and all they had to do was boil it. But we had families come up with grandparents on walkers ("please, ma'am, we'll be happy to bring water out to you. Private, take some water over there"), families with six kids of three races, and two grandparents who looked nothing like anyone, and then another family with four kids of three races, some of whom looked familiar. Because they had to get all the water right now. Sound familiar?
We got it organized (BTW, Anheuser Busch and Miller both run a bottled/canned water line nonstop as a charitable emergency measure. When this hit, they switched several other lines over to water, and added the water cans/bottles into the feed. So the first few pallets were actually water in cans marked BUDWEISER. We think. It was hard to tell the difference.) and switched to tanked water we had processed and hauled in. Restaurants got first dibs, because how else were they supposed to operate? Then it was all you could package in your own containers. People complained about the taste vs bottled water. Which they could still legally buy, mind you. But they wanted it free, because they'd voted!
It was still raining.
Every bridge across the Mississippi except one was under water. So if you had to cross the river for work, plan on leaving five hours early. Lots of people tried to find temporary lodging.
Then it turned out that one of the flood doors in East St Louis, that can be closed against rising water across roadways, had been stolen at some point for scrap metal. A several ton steel door on rollers with a locking seal had gone missing. So that was a frantic scramble, but not mine.
I wound up in the mobile command post of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency as the nighttime duty NCO. And what were my duties?
"Nothing, you guys have done plenty the last six weeks. You just sit there in the AC and if I need anything I'll let you know. The bunk's comfortable."
That was nice of the state guy.
The mobile command post was a motorhome, with two bunks, a fridge, microwave, radios for CB, shortwave, aircraft band, marine band, emergency band, and several others. Three computers. Six monitors screens (CRTs, this was 1993), three regular TVs, an erected antenna mast that could receive Chicago from where we were, and bunches of other gear.
It was still raining.
We went in every night, occasionally ran out for food for one element or another, got counts on the water levels at the distribution points, reported back.
We were there about a week. It was a lot better than sandbagging, and a lot less frustrating than dealing with panicky idiots.
I came in August 1st, and asked, "Are they still expecting a 48' crest?"
He said, "Fifty three feet."
(over 20 feet above flood stage and a peak flow rate of 1.08 Million cubic feet per second. At this rate, a bowl the size of Busch Stadium would be filled to the brim in 69 seconds.) https://www.weather.gov/lsx/1993_flood
The Flood Wall was 52' high.
I cursed, and asked, "Are they going to be stupid and try to sandbag" (knowing that literal megatons of water would wash sandbags away in seconds) "or are they evacuating?"
He said, "Neither. There's 100 tons of dynamite on the Jefferson County levee, and the MPs have orders to shoot to kill. At 50' they blow. But I didn't tell you that."
This was before cell phones, so I couldn't have told anyone anyway, but I understood how utterly critical this was. Flooding STL would kill thousands and cost billions and take years to attempt to rebuild.
I have to wonder if they told all those farmers in Jefferson County as they evacuated them, "We're all in this together, and you have to lose your farm, your house, all your worldly goods, and everything you've ever worked for. But we'll make it up to you. Honest. Because we're all in this together."
They had totally failed to flatten this curve.
So I sat there with my 3-soldier element, sipped soda, and remained riveted on the white board. The phone would ring. The state guy would answer. "Hello?"
And then he'd write a number on the board.
A half hour later. Ring ring. "Hello?"
Ring ring. "Hello?"
Ring Ring. "Hello?"
Ring Ring. "Hello?"
Ring ring. "Hello?"
49' 2". "It's going down."
That. Close. That. @#$ing close. To either inundating an entire county, or potentially flooding billions upon billions of dollars and thousands of lives and businesses in St Louis.
By failing to make the correct decision at every single point.
Again: all the government had to do at any point was NOT DO THE WRONG THING and everything would have sorted itself out in a manageable fashion. But of course, that would have meant upsetting some voters. Who wouldn't vote for them. So they doubled down, tripled down, quadrupled down. Like a gambling addict in Vegas blowing his children's college fund and then inheritance against the surety that the odds would change any time.
At every single decision point, without fail (in other words, 100% fail), the government did EXACTLY THE WRONG THING. And luckily, at literally the last possible second, it worked.
This is exactly what is happening with the Covids and our "Fifteen days to slow the spread" that didn't, 115 days ago.
Followed by stuffing sick people into nursing homes, destroying entire industries by being "All in this together, as long as some small business gets screwed, not the corporate donors," and now, "Wear a mask and stand behind plastic. There's literally zero evidence that it works, but we need Karen to vote for us, and we have to Do Something."
And you will continue to demand the government Do Something, complain when they do, and vote for them to do it again.
Because, as Loki observed in The Avengers, "Kneel before me. I said kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel."
And not only are there always men like him, but you will always vote for them.
As for me:
World Security Council: Director Fury, the council has made a decision.
Nick Fury: I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.
There is no universe in which I wear a fetish mask that accomplishes nothing. I will not let my daughter be encased in plastic screens at school. I refuse to lock myself in my house. COVID peaked in late April, per every document available. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/COVID19/index.htm
I will not assist in continuing to do the wrong thing, doubling down on stupidity.
Fast-forward to the last big mess when a bunch of levees failed, and they were rebuilding/reinforcing them. I think it was Neanderpundit had a post showing a tub grinder, which was being used to break-up houses and lots of other stuff to small pieces for easier disposal since the flood had ruined them. And it was mentioned that they were using some of this material for fill in the new levee work...
I hope you can make up for lost trade at Dragoncon somehow. I'm sure I'll see you there when we can go again.
Sorry, pal. Mork & Mindy reruns were just coming on.
"I bet you're upset about losing your crop."
** "Naw, it'll be alright. That's what crop insurance is for."
"Oh, ok. What about next year?"
** "Next year? I don't have to wait that long. In two weeks, this will be dry enough to plant a fall crop on. And the flood dropped so much silt that I won't have to buy fertilizer for ten years."
"But I bet you're upset that you lost your home."
** "Naw. My home's fine. It's twenty miles thataways on top of a hill. Only an idiot builds his house on a flood plain."
Jaw-dropped look of astonishment. "Well, back to you, Peter."