Catching Up

I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving had a great holiday. After a couple of intense weeks, I have been enjoying some pretty weather and restful times with the part of my family living in Idaho. Next week, I will be heading to Oregon for more of the same. The time away from Carbondale, as time away from Carbondale always seems to do, has provided an opportunity to catch-up with some of my blog writing, so expect new posts soon, including reports on the last of the Colorado trip, a little more writing about the Mt. Holly case from Logan, and some other materials we have in preparation. I also have finished the editing of the last round of Colorado pictures, so you’ll get to see those as well.

That said…  The world has had so many things happening in it, some of which was close to home for us at DPP… The two news items I have paid most attention to in the last couple of weeks involve tornadoes nearby and a typhoon far away. Because I’ve had a few people ask me about relief efforts, I wanted to take a moment to post some links to information that I hope will be useful.

Tornadoes in the Midwest

Tornadoes hit our region of the US. Carbondale is fine (the storms swept through quickly and relatively harmlessly), but our neighbors in southeast Missouri as well as in other parts of southern and central Illinois were hit hard. Here’s some links to relief efforts you can use to help out if, you are interested in doing so:

For information for central Illinois relief efforts, including a list of different forms of help and contact information, take a look here.

By the way, folks, the food pantries throughout southern Illinois need donations right now. If you go to this webpage  there’s a listing of the food pantries and homeless shelters not only in Carbondale (despite what it says on the top of the page), but in other parts of southern Illinois as well. Look to the right on the page, and you’ll see these links as well as links to other information for food pantries in other parts of the state. 

In Scott County, Missouri, the Scott County Community Action Committee has set up a webpage with information for donations (food, clothing, etc.).

Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

If you watched the news the last few weeks, you know that the Philippines was first hit by a serious earthquake, and then by Typhoon Haiyan. According to an article published on-line today in USA Today, the death toll has risen to 5,560 with another 1,757 missing. For those of you who want to learn more, USA Today has a set of links off to the side of this article with photographs and other information from their continuing coverage of this horrific disaster. While the Huffington Post has a story up about a study showing Americans do not care about this particular disaster, I’ve fielded several questions about it and have also had more than a few people ask me to take a closer look. I will do my best from far away, but if anyone out there knows of someone on the ground who could do some guest writing for us and can put me in touch with them, I would welcome a more in-depth look on this blog at this disaster. In the meantime, for those who have emailed me (or, in one case, stopped me in the grocery store to ask about it), here’s some information concerning relief/donation opportunities. This article also comes from USA Today’s coverage of the disaster (which, so far as I can tell, has been very good). It provides information not only information on how to help, but helps you figure out how to determine where your help will do the most good (i.e., how to tell one charity organization from another).


Flawed FEMA Maps, Flood Insurance, and Disaster Recovery

Residential flood insurance is available almost exclusively through the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps floodplains nationwide to identify the relative risk of flooding in any given area (see FEMA flood maps here). A recent investigation by Jeff Rossen and Avni Patel of TODAY News revealed that many of these FEMA maps are decades out of date, forcing thousands of homeowners to pay for unnecessary (and very costly) flood insurance. [See the full report at TODAY.] Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is quoted as calling the FEMA flood map program “one big mess”, and pointing out that “These are middle-class, hard-working people” being affected, “They’d not get a mortgage, lose their homes.”

Old FEMA maps are not the only problem, however. Just last year, the small town of Sikeston, MO, began the long process of contesting a FEMA map completed in 2012. The 2012 maps delivered to the city significantly expanded the designated floodplains within the city. The new maps would have adversely affected property values and seriously complicated zoning in the city. City officials contest the accuracy of the new maps, however. According to a report in the Southeast Missourian (June 7, 2012) officials argue that one of the newly designated floodplains includes “Sikeston ridge” – clearly implying the impossibility that this area be in actual danger of flooding. City officials submitted their appeal and a revised map to FEMA on September 13, 2013 – more than 15 months after finding the alleged error – illustrating just how long and difficult the appeal process can be (You can read more here).

A similar scenario is beginning to unfold in Lynn, Oklahoma – the small Oklahoma City suburb ravaged by a devastating tornado in the late spring of 2013. As early as June, OK-SAFE, a non-profit based out of Oklahoma City, began to report that some tornado victims who had lost their homes were concerned that they would not be allowed to rebuild because of where their homes were located (read the original report at OK-SAFE). A recent news story from Lynn, OK (the Daily Item) elaborated on the problem. Item writer Chris Stevens reports that the (“old”) 2012 FEMA maps place about 346 structures in a flood zone – the (new) 2014 maps place more than 1,200 structures in a flood zone. The new maps could affect residents’ and business owners’ rebuilding attempts – and will certainly (and drastically) increase the cost of flood insurance in Lynn (for the full story, see ItemLive).

As citizens and municipalities attempt to come to grips with the changing face of disaster planning, management, and recovery in the United States – especially the nationalization of coordination and planning in FEMA – we have to hope that errant maps and lengthy appeals do not come to typify public dialogue regarding disaster recovery (or flood insurance policy) around the country. Unfortunately, as we watch the unfolding flooding disaster in Colorado, and the recovery that is only just beginning, we may well see more of the same.

Since not all our readers know what a flood plain map looks like, we thought we’d post one. Below is the flood plain map of Jackson county, IL, home of Disasters, Property, and Politics. We purchased this through the FEMA Map Service Center for $2.50.

FEMA map of Jackson County, Illinois.

FEMA map of Jackson County, Illinois.