Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What's next ... a plague of locusts?

The floods that hit parts of Las Vegas yesterday may go down as another case study of the failure of government planning. You may recall that after the "100- year flood" hit the city in 1999, local infrastructure experts accelerated plans to divert runoff to designated detention basins and flood channels. The local flood district has spent about $750 million over the past two decades on flood-prevention projects and claim that the job's only half done.

The problem is, yesterday's flood hit a part of town that's supposed to have been "fixed." Water that flooded streets, stranded motorists and damaged homes (in relatively upscale neighborhoods, BTW) missed detention basins and other runoff channels by only a few yards. And another inch or more of rain is expected today.

Of course, it's possible that at the rate the rain fell -- a few isolated areas recorded nearly 3 inches of rain in about 90 minutes -- no diversion projects could have prevented the flooding. But if the same areas of town get more precipitation over the next couple of days, and more damage occurs, some pointed questions need to be asked.

Fortunately, we were untouched by the flooding. The advantage of living in a far-flung burb on high ground, I suppose. Our house is about 12 miles west of and a few hundred feet above the valley floor. Our house is also elevated and oriented in such a way that even if there werea two- or three-foot river of water in the adjacent street, we'd be OK.

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