Editorials

Rivers remind us they can take as well as give

Virgie Howard and her dog, Jack, get help from a boat as the Long Lake and Madison fire departments evacuate her Monday from the Mallard Lake subdivision in Pontoon Beach.
Virgie Howard and her dog, Jack, get help from a boat as the Long Lake and Madison fire departments evacuate her Monday from the Mallard Lake subdivision in Pontoon Beach. snagy@bnd.com

“The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable.”

— Mark Twain, “Life on the Mississippi”

Our region is rich. Since prehistoric times the rivers that flow together near this place have given us food, transportation and occupation. The Great Confluence still is the lifeblood of our economy, with additional arteries that are rails, pipes, flight paths and highways.

So the same water richness that is the envy of most everyone west of us, sometimes reminds us that it cannot always be contained by banks and levees. It is a force of nature.

Our creeks and rivers this past week have taken lives, homes and livelihoods. The floods created damage that will cost millions and take months to undo.

We mostly understand the consequences of living so close to water. We tax ourselves a penny for every $4 we spend to ensure that the levees are high enough to withstand millennial-force flooding. We buy flood insurance and are cautious about where we build. We remember the Flood of 1993, when a house was swept off its foundation and a town was forced to move.

Yet some of our neighbors underestimate the water’s power. They decide their vehicle can navigate the flooded road, and too often realize too late that they are wrong. More than half of the flood deaths result from people driving into floodwater, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

As our region begins recovering from the water’s crest, we should remember a few things about the Flood of 2015. First, we should talk to our loved ones about the consequence of driving into flooded areas. Second, we should thank those who filled sandbags, rescued the stranded and worked to keep everyone safe. Third, we should take a moment to reflect on the force that nourishes us or humbles us, and how grateful we are for being spared or being given the resilience to build again.

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