Archive for the ‘catastrophe’ Category

I’m intolerant today. So…

To the Red River, Fargo, Moorehead – and the two 100-year-floods which happened within six years of each other:

Folks, if you knowingly live in a flood plain, quit your whiney complaining. Your options, as you have known since the time you bought the property included flood insurance, sandbags and flood waters. If standing in your living room waist deep in Red River water is no longer fun for you, simply move.

And, City Fathers of both Fargo and Moore(dunder)head: Who are the Ph.Ds who voted to build a public school in a flood plain. Sheesh. I guess just a few hundred thousand people live in Nort’ Dakota for a reason.



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When a major Interstate bridge shook, fell and crumpled into the Mississippi River a couple months back, there was an oh-so-brief moment when everyone rushed to the rescue and recovery of those who survived and the families of the 13 who did not.

Today, crews began constructing the new bridge that will span the river and, eventually, rejoin this major artery of transit through Minneapolis. As the first pile of dirt was being moved, the federal government announced an additional $124 million in funding on top of the $250 million already promised to build a new bridge. But where is the help for the people who need it today?

A few news stories and articles have appeared in local papers and broadcast outlets as survivors make their cases for the financial help they need to rebuild their own lives. So far, there hasn’t been a big groundswell of support from local, state and federal agencies designed to assist in situations like this one. Some just need new transportation as their car may have sat under 10 feet of water for two weeks. Others might need help with medical bills and lost salaries because their injuries kept them in hospitals or out of work for weeks on end.

Legislators and Governor Pawlenty are “working on a plan” to help with this need, which will get addressed in next year’s legislative session.  This alleged help that’s coming may as well come in 2011.

When compared to the big picture of replacing a bridge, providing some financial help to those who need it seems like a no brainer. But apparently it takes buckets of brains at the very top, followed by endless hours of meetings and debate to make it all happen.

Our country is red-taped to death and this is just another example of how priorities have shifted to the detriment of our very neighbors whom we turn to when earth-shattering, life-changing tragedy strikes.

C’mon Minnesota! Let’s not forget the ones who need you the most.


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I want to get paid to write a column for a liberal newspaper.


Earlier this week, a local Minneapolis columnist (who happens to write for the Star Tribune) inked a piece on the newly chosen contractor who has been selected by the State to build the replacement bridge over the Mississippi River. (You likely remember that a bridge collapsed on August 1. So the city needs a new bridge to carry traffic over the river.)

This columnist’s viewpoint focused in on Flatiron, the Colorado-based contractor, and how it was shipping in several Ford F-150s it purchased from a Colorado-based car dealer. He conjectured that Flatiron chose to buy its work trucks from its home state in order to cheat Minnesota out of $65,000 in sales taxes.


So when I get miffed about stupid thinking, I tend to fire off responses. Here’s what I wrote to the columnist after reading his flotsam…

I skim your column from time to time. Today’s was a little embarrassing. Hyper sensitive guys like you tend create people panic over trivial observations that are written or said with no authority or verification. In your latest piece, you contend that Flatiron is somehow screwing the state out of $65,000 in taxes because it shipped in its work vehicles for the I-35 bridge project. Hmmm. Consider:

1) Does Flatiron have a contract with a Ford Dealer in Colorado? Did you call the Ford Dealer out West to ask if Flatiron was under legal obligation to buy vehicles from it?

2) How much in salaries and employment taxes will Flatiron pay while its here in the state building the bridge over the course of the next 12 months. Let’s do a quick guesstimate. Two hundred people, averaging $50 per hour and working 60 hour weeks for the next 52 weeks. That’s $31 million in salaries paid locally – a bulk of which will get spent locally – and the state will get several million in employment taxes. Doesn’t feel like we’re really short-shrifting anyone now does it?

But don’t publish that statistic. Just continue building paranoia among your weak-kneed liberal readers as you further your belief that somehow the State of Minnesota and its bridge builder are both trying to get away with something evil.

It’s a bridge for shit’s sake. You would do well to do some bridge building of your own.

(-My Signature and phone number here)

PS: I wonder if Flatiron ever buys its trucks from its Colo dealer for a location job and then winds up donating or selling them on the cheap to local charity when the job is completed?

Yeah. I need to be a columnist.


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Fire.  We typically think it a good thing, unless it engulfs a prairie, attacks our home, or comes from the sky in the form of a meteor – then it’s not so good.

At one point in my childhood, Dad drove a ’73 Ford Econoline van. That van experienced an engine fire once and after it was repaired, we all got to smell the result of the fire for 10 hours on the next family vacation.  

Today, uncontrolled flames are torching the landscape and cityscapes of Southern California. It is beyond our imaginations. The smoke, the fire, the smell, the devastation. Satellite shots of smoke trails and video coverage of firefighters battling the blaze do not do justice to the fire’s enormity and severity. 

More than a half-million people have been evacuated from their homes. A friend’s daughter who goes to the University of San Diego flew back to Minneapolis on Tuesday and isn’t sure when she’ll return.

Today the LA Times reported:

The scale of the relocations was most visible at Qualcomm, the 60,000-seat home of the San Diego Chargers. Cots lined concrete gangways. Tents were pitched near tunnel entrances, and the three-quarter-full parking lot ringing the arena was doubling as a campground. Mountains of disposable diapers, stacks of bottled water and other supplies were everywhere.

In three areas of the stadium’s second floor, medical teams were treating 350 to 500 patients from nursing homes, assisted living centers and independent living facilities, said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health.

Indeed, the crowd in and around the stadium appeared to be represent a broad cross-section of San Diego County: Longhaired motorcycle riders and retired couples from Rancho Bernardo; working-class families and others clearly middle-class.

Whenever people must flee to a football stadium for safety, I start to worry. Reminiscent of Katrina, will our state and federal governments fail to do what’s needed in support of the thousands who are losing their homes, jobs, belongings – and in worst cases – losing loved ones who got caught in the blaze?

Let’s pray the winds die down, a cooling rain falls over this part of the country and the fires subside so those affected can retake their lives that are, for now, dictated by the very same fire cave dwellers rejoiced in when they fell upon its discovery.


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Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s approval rating has skyrocketed recently. Why? In the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, his face, name and voice have saturated the media. The Republican, now twice elected as governor, has stepped up, admitting some of his own short-sighted thinking about passing legislation that would have increased the gas tax a year ago. These funds naturally go toward funding for roads, highways and bridges – something the entire U.S. has discovered gets sorely under-funded.

But the PR machine for the Pawlenty camp has done an admirable job since the bridge fell down. The Governor has drawn favorable reviews following appearances on the national morning news programs, local radio and newspapers. And even though partisan politicking egos continue to exist in Minnesota, it’s tough to blast a governor for doing his best in bad circumstances.

Unlike the Bush situation in which the general public is not only sick and tired of hearing his excuses but have, at last, peeled back the rose-colored glasses when it comes to Iraq and our country’s foreign policy.

These serve as case studies, proving that any leader has only a short time to carry out effective leadership directives. Getting a major interestate highway bridge built in 18 months sounds accetable to the average Jane or Joe. I think we all would have been amazed if we could have liberated Iraq, established some peace initiatives and gotten the hell outta there in three years time. We may have applauded Bush for that accomplishment. But six years?

Not saying a bridge and war are good comparisons, but it does highlight the style differences between Bush and Pawlenty. On one hand, the President knows how to wear out his welcome versus the Governor who simply wants to get something done right in a timely fashion.


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On Thursday nights in my city, in the downtown shopping district, live music can be heard while venturing to and from all the big box chain stores. We were there last night, my son, daughter and myself, back-to-school-shopping at American Eagle. On the way to the store, I had to stop and listen to a local musician do his cover of “Don’t Stop Believin'” by one of the greatest bands ever, Journey. It was entertaining. No matter where you go in the world, audiences listening to this song inevitably know the words and sing along (sometimes loudly).

I have to admit though, I wrote this post on Journey and Steve Perry some time ago and it continues to be one of the most-read posts on my blog.  That’s…a little peculiar in my book.


My last random thought for today is about death. With the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis (oops there I go, mentioning that disaster again), a section of a book I’ve been reading has knocked down an old rule of thumb that I’ve always held onto when it comes to death.  My rule of thumb? Avoid death for as long as possible.

The author of this book I’m reading, however, suggests that in order to really live life, we must embrace death. It is, afterall, inevitable. So if we can learn to accept the fact that today we could die, it will enable us to live each day more fully without the worry or fear of dying looming behind our shoulder at all times.

I’m not sure that I’ve bought into this theory entirely. But it is food for thought.

I remember vividly a summer day in my hometown of Spencer, Iowa, when my ultra-religious grandma was visiting. My cousin, who has commented on this blog from time to time, was visiting me as well. We were hot after getting downtown to go to Krazy Days – a big sidewalk sale held every year on mainstreet. But grandma cornered us and was giving us the usual, “Have you given yourselves up to Jesus,” speech.

My cuz and I were coming up with every possible comeback to get through this awkward moment with Grandma as painlessly as possible. Suddenly she caught on and said, “You need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, because he may come back for us today and you have to be ready.” At that point my cousin said, “That’s fine Grandma, we’ll be born again, but tell Jesus he can’t come until we get a new speedometer for our bike.” 

I loved that speedometer.


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Divers recoveryThe Minneapolis Star Tribune and other news outlets in the Twin Cities are now reporting that divers are recovering bodies from the Mississippi River following last week’s collapse of the 35W bridge near downtown Minneapolis.

After nearly eight full days of searching, the known death toll caused by the bridge failure is now seven people.  Complete profiles of those known dead and still missing can be found on Minnesota Public Radio’s web site. 

Photo: Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Star Tribune and Associated Press report that:

Dave Hayhoe, the police homicide unit commander, announced the recoveries ahead of a briefing on the investigation, the Associated Press reported. He said the bodies were recovered by divers, but gave no other information.

“Right now the first priority is notifying the families,” Hayhoe said.

Five people were known dead in the Aug. 1 collapse, with at least eight more known missing and presumed dead. Crews have been searching in and around the Mississippi River since the disaster for the missing.

The victims weren’t immediately identified.

The list of confirmed missing includes Christine Sacorafas, 45, of White Bear Lake; Vera Peck, 50, and her son Richard Chit, 20, both of Bloomington; Greg Jolstad, 45, of Mora; Peter Hausmann, 47, of Rosemount; Sadiya Sahal, 23, of St. Paul, and her 2-year-old daughter, Hanah; and Scott Sathers, 29, of Maple Grove.

Navy dive teams are assisting local rescue teams with the recovery efforts, providing skills and equipment that enable them to dive lower and more effectively given the tenuous situation of the bridge damage that remains covering a large portion of the river.  The bridge is believed to collapsed upon several vehicles and rests on top of vehicles pinned in the murky river bottom.

Several vehicles have been pulled from the water in the last two days, none of them containing bodies.

The State Patrol said 88 vehicles have been located at the collapse site, including those in the Mississippi River.


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Our President Bush visited Minneapolis on Saturday. His objective was to see, first-hand, the I35 bridge that collapsed near downtown Minneapolis last Wednesday. He met with the Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybeck (whom I’ve met on a couple of occasions and truly like), and other government leaders and state officials. He also toured the wreckage of the bridge and talked to a survivor who helped rescue kids from a school bus that was involved in the collapse.

This morning as I listened to a video replay of Bush’s comments on KARE-11, my son overhead and asked: “Why would Bush come to see a bridge in the river?”

I said, “Curiosity.” And then I elaborated on the importance of our nation’s leader. His concern for the lives lost, impact of the catastrophe on a large city, and role as “head coach” to a team (the citizens of the U.S.) that will be responsible for rebuilding and remaking, in our case, a bridge.

Figureheads. We all have, in our minds, the relevance of figureheads in our lives. From the Grandma Esthers who everyone revered and counted on for advice in the family to, yes, POTUS.

Some presidents are better than others at “feeling the pain” when people are in shock. Our current commander in chief learned a valuable lesson in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and so when he arrived on the approach of a fallen bridge in Minneapolis on Saturday, I along with the bulk of Twin Cities residents, looked thoughtfully and favorably on his presence, comments and interest in helping this city back up to its feet after being taken down just a few days ago.


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Five hours into the aftermath of the Minnesota 35W bridge collapse near downtown Minneapolis and tragically, but also miraculously, seven people have been confirmed dead of the hundreds who were treated for injuries.

How did this happen and why? These are questions the Minnesota Department of Transportation and National Transportation and Safety Board will be asked to answer.  Meanwhile, Minneapolis faces two years of reconstruction of one of its primary arteries. The disruption is minor considering the lives lost, the injuries, the emotional trauma of sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

The heroic efforts of Minneapolis residents and those traveling on that 2,000-foot span of concrete and steel will become the story – has already become a large part of the recovery. It’s how we, as society, recover from tragedy. Who stepped up? Who came to help the 60 kids stranded on a school bus? Why did a team of a half dozen cyclists turn their bikes around when they heard the rumble and saw the dust rising? Whose lives did they touch?  The nameless, unforgettable heroes who, with their own hands, risked their own lives and saved the lives of perfect strangers.

That’s where we find our wherewithal when we have to wake up in the morning following a tragic afternoon on a hot summer day and move forward with our lives. We look in the faces of our cubicle neighbors at work, the store owner downtown, and our next door neighbors at home and we see hope in humanity. Hope that just maybe that face will lend a hand and help another if and when that time arrives.

And that, my friends, is what makes America the land of the free and the home of the brave.


(c) ceg 2007

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Today, during rush hour at about 6 p.m., the I-35 (35W) Mississippi River bridge near downtown Minneapolis, collapsed. Read the latest story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune here.

35W Bridge CollapseMore than 100 vehicles plummeted from the steel arch deck truss bridge into the river and onto the wreckage. Emergency personnel were on the scene immediately as well as the Office of Homeland Security and FBI. “A steady stream” of survivors, conscious and unconscious were being rushed to area hospitals.

Photo Courtesy: Fox 9 News Minneapolis

Eye witnesses and victims described the bridge collapse saying they heard a loud rumble and then the concrete buckled sending cars skidding, flying and nose-diving in every direction. While the collapse occurred near the end of rush hour, traffic was still bumper to bumper through this area. the bridge carries more than 100,000 vehicles in both directions each day.

Deck replacement and approach construction were underway on the bridge, indicating that the collapse perhaps was due to some failure caused by the work and repair that was underway.

In addition to the collapse into the Mississippi River, the bridge trusses and concrete fell on another highway passing under the bridge, a railroad train under the bridge, as well as bike paths and pedestrian walkways. Construction workers were also on and under the bridge during the collapse.

UPDATE: At 9:30 p.m. central time, Aug. 1, CNN reports that there have been six fatalities, at least one of which is related to drowning.


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