Saturday, July 08, 2006

Easton Flooding

Though it's probably old news now, I will attempt to explain what happened in Easton last week.

The Delaware River is not navigable past Trenton (it may not be navigable to Trenton, but if so, it cannot be much past Trenton). The head waters are far north in New York State. After the type of rain we had here and the amount, the rising of the river was inevitable. I am not sure that the type of flooding was anticipated. Many say that the recent floodings of the Delaware are a result of urban sprawl - that fields that once used to retain the precipitation are now gone instead replaced by subdivisions, asphalt roads, and storm drains. All of these contribute to rising waters in the streams that feed the Delaware and in some cases directly into the Delaware River itself. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that in the last three years acres of farmland just north of me has been converted into medium-density housing and roads and construction have been going on all over the place. Is it a coincidence that the Delaware River has flooded three times in two years? I don't know, but I would have to be a fool to think it was simply a coincidence, too.

On Wednesday of last week, people around here were calmly moving stuff from low lying areas. I walked the dog down to the community pool on the riverfront. The water was well below its bank at 10 AM. I walked down the Delaware towards downtown Easton. The people who lived across the street from the river were packing there vans and cars calmly and deliberately. The auto shop and the bait shop were already closed. By two o'clock, the road along the river was closed. The forecast called for the flooding to crest sometime on Thursday morning. Downtown Easton and the rivers that surround it (the Lehigh River and Bushkill Creek) were beginning to flood and gawkers and onlookers came from everywhere to take pictures of "the worst flood since '55." It was bad. Water was rushing the wrong way up the tributaries. Streets and blocks were closed. The free bridge from Easton, PA to Philipsburg, NJ was just about up to the road surface which had not happened since '55. Debris and trees were cruising along and smashing into the bridge and anything else that remained in their way.

At 6 PM Kate and I went down to the community pool which was now completely underwater, and then we headed downtown to look at the raging torrent from a different perspective. Businesses had acquired pumps to keep their basements water from rising too high, and state troopers had cordoned off large areas. It was hard to see, but the water was rushing and raging. It was surreal to see tires and trees and debris of every sort rushing past what is normally a calm and peaceful, shallow river.

In other areas around here, things were worse. Up river the town of Portland, NJ near the Delaware Water Gap National Park got the worst of it. The town is still shuttered a week later and the residents are begging for some kind of help. Down river in Lambertville, NJ and New Hope, PA, I have not heard word though things were bad on the news when we left. This is the third time in two years that those communities have suffered near total losses. I think the people there believe that this can't happen again, yet it does.

Things here seem to be normal, at least in my College Hill neighborhood. Later today, I will explore other areas of town to see what has happened and what is going on.

I did receive an email from Rick Santorum saying that because of my zip code that I could be elgible for FEMA or PEMA assistance. I will have to write him back and politely refuse his offer.

This article states that New Hope is "opened for business" which I can't believe. Two homes were totally destroyed.

UPDATE 2: I read in our local paper that Houston is fed up with the non-working displaced New Orleanians. Mr. Clio has repeatedly stated that this negative image of New Orleanians is undermining our efforts to rebuild. I agree. More on this topic later.

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