By Eve George
On July 8, 2019, at a White House media briefing on Climate Change, US president Donald J. Trump stated: “We want clean air and we want clear water”. He called for federal funding for environmental restoration of the Florida Everglades after seeing first-hand how severe flooding affected the very vulnerable including children and animals, making mention of the 2012 New York hurricane Sandy which resulted in the deaths of 44 city residents when the subways and tunnels were flooded. Thousands of New Yorkers were temporarily displaced and located to public shelters. New York, Maryland, Washington, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina then declared a state of emergency.
In today’s reality COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. Every aspect of our lives has been affected. Everything has been impacted. A disease may be indiscriminate in who it affects-rich or poor – but the effects it wreaks are anything but equitable between the disadvantaged or privileged members of society.
A former lead dam engineer, today, is extremely worried about the effects of flooding and the mandatory evacuations which force kids and working parents into public shelters where the pandemic COVID-19 exists. It is imperative that policymakers understand the seriousness of this issue.
Dr Vern Ruskin has written to the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, New York’s City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican US Senator Rick Scott and Democratic US Senator Patty Murray pleading for policymakers to double-check that the sea walls and levees are high enough to withstand hurricanes.
Dr Ruskin observed that the North-West Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers has had no problems with flooding for 50 years because all dams and levees are double checked in the US and Canada on The Colombia River. He also notes that in some parts of the US where sea walls and levees are seemingly not double-checked by engineer’s, flooding is disastrous referencing the 2017 Oroville dam through ‘maintenance errors’ which failed: 180,000 Californians being forced to evacuate. He stated it was a close call to being flooded out and a high death rate. He also stated that the annual double-checking by engineers is not a trivial matter but of utmost importance.
Hurricane season is here, and this year may present unique challenges because of COVID-19. In the US positive COVID cases exceed 5,598,547, deaths 174,645 and recovered cases 2,866,847. The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin is from June 1 to November 30. The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October. To make matters worse, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict there is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season with 13 to 19 named storms, from June 1 to November 30. A category 5 hurricane is when: Winds are more than 156 mph/hr – like the speed of some high-speed trains, the volume and surge of the water weighs more than one train upon impact. Fears of dams and sea walls overflowing and causing extreme floods, especially in COVID times are of great concern and worry to some.
In 1961, the 34th US president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the 35th US president, John F Kennedy, ordered the Northwest Division of United States Army Corps of Engineers engage to stop the flooding after 18,000 Republicans and Democrats in Oregon got flooded out. This arrangement between the two president’s and Canada after the signing of the Columbia River Treaty, successfully stopped flooding in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington for over 50 years.
Lead dam engineer and former World War II veteran, Dr Vern Ruskin, was appointed to head a 45 member team to engineer flood control, dams and to ensure that two independent engineer’s and one geologist, a Canadian General and the United States Army Corps of Engineers all checked to make certain that every dam and sea wall were 100 percent safe.
Dr Ruskin suggests that young professional engineers follow in the footsteps of president’s Eisenhower and Kennedy to provide 100 percent flood safe dams and sea walls in New York, New Jersey, Houston Texas, Florida, New Orleans and other parts of the US shores
Today, Dr Ruskin is maybe the only surviving engineer involved in the making of the original 1955-1964 Columbia River Treaty. He is also the survivor of a plane crashed that quickly became engulfed in flames and took lives.