Provide Proper Flood Maps Now

by Mark Zaugg 19. July 2013 07:42

The difference between 'right' and 'wrong' is an uncrossable chasm.  But the difference between 'right' and 'kinda right' can be a very, very large gap too.

I've spent the past couple of days trying to reconcile the details from over the past month.  It's been tough, it's been inspiring, it's been hot and sweaty work followed up with sweet refreshment.

The flood has unquestionably been unprecedented.  No one has seen a flood this bad before, this was truly major.  Full credit to those involved from the start.  We have jumped in and slogged through the mud and the water.  We've done what we could to make things safe.  We've done what we can to make things right.  We aren't done, but we're still trying.

We knew it was going to be bad ahead of time.  We weren't sure how bad and we didn't expect it to be as bad as it was.  When the river flows jumped to five and ten times above regular levels in less than a day it became nearly impossible to predict accurately what was going to happen.

But poor advance warning is a far cry from no warning whatsoever.  If you were in an area affected in 2005 you had fair reason to be worried.  We didn't expect it to extend nearly as far or be nearly as dangerous.  Do not take the warnings lightly.  Be prepared ahead of time and act on it before you have to react to an emergency.

That uncertainty that has the ability to really wear people down, especially right now.  I will never forget these are good people's lives.  I am honestly trying my best to do what I can for them while keeping myself safe, healthy and functional.  These people need as many answers and reassurance as we can give them right now.  Some have the resources and ability to buy a new home, replace their possessions and begin picking up the pieces.  Others are struggling with having lost all but the clothes on their backs.  They need as much help as we can give them.

The flood maps are a good idea.  We know that we can't just keep sinking resources into a home that will be flooded in the next rain event.  We need to make sound decisions based on the best information available to us right now.  Those people deserve the best answers we can give them so they can begin making wise decisions about their futures.

The problem is that we already know the best information available is not presented in the maps as drawn now.  We know they are already outdated, based upon old data.  We know that they don't necessarily take into account floods that creep up along McLeod Trail.  We know they cannot take into account changes the river has carved into it's own channel.

I come from the world of technology, specifically from the faction that believes in "Release early, release often."  You have to pick a starting point, so rather than waiting for everything to be perfect you put out something that's good and spend time improving it.  Allow yourself the opportunity to throw away the first attempt - if it turns out great then all the better, but be prepared right from the start to throw away the first attempt if you can learn lessons and make the second version considerably better.

The flood maps are a good starting point, but they must be considered incomplete.  We do not have time for the arrogance of faux finality when there are people's lives in the balance.  Right now the maps as presented are no more than working documents, open to redesign and discussion.

A house in danger of getting washed into the river may not be worth saving and we need to be honest with the owners and residents.  We simply can't save everything in perpetuity.  But the red, pink and yellow zones are not carved into the bedrock, either.  It is far too early to say we have put due consideration into the maps at all.

We are Albertans.  We know how to work hard.  We know how to volunteer.  We know how to give.  We know how to cooperate and help.

Now is the time to state forthright that we are starting with the maps we have, but we are about to release our best and brightest minds on finding solutions for those affected.  We have people who are capable and willing to do the work.  We have experts willing and able to put in the time and effort to help our neighbours.  Let them do their work and produce the best maps possible for our Flood Friends.  They deserve answers now.

Stop pretending the maps are final and let loose the next batch of flood heros: Those who can help the affected plan the next stage of their cleanup.  No more lame meetings like we saw in High River tonight.  Get those who understand the area together with those who know how to design towns to protect against floods and get the proper maps out to those who are affected as soon as we are possibly able.  In days or weeks, not months or years.  We need the right answers now, not the 'kinda right' answers.

We have proven that we can pitch in and help each other.  Now is not the time to stop.

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