All along the Missouri river, residents and government agencies on all levels are preparing for flooding, and this, from The Wall Street Journal, is really incredible:
Col. Bob Ruch, commander of the Corps's Omaha, Neb., district, said engineers had been releasing water from the reservoirs at a measured pace to clear way for snowmelt. But rains in eastern Montana over the last three weeks equaled a full year's normal total, he said, and "it filled up the space we created to take on the snowmelt, which still sits up in the mountains."
The dam that the Army Corps of Engineers is using to control the water dates from 1957. It has transformed this impending flood into a slow-moving disaster, that could keep people from their homes for months, but that people can prepare for. It makes the flood a totally different sort of disaster from the tornado the struck Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick had to give a flash lesson in tornado preparedness. (Stay in the basement or in a bathroom, where pipes help anchor and protect you.)
But what happens if it keeps raining in Montana? Increasingly, the infrastructure built to prepare for disasters is being overwhelmed by the scale of the events we're experiencing. And given the federal government's reluctance to reinvest in infrastructure, it doesn't seem like we'll be building bigger, better dams any time soon.