Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Disaster Tourism

The west Michigan area has had quite a "spring". I put that last word in quotes because with the exception of the last couple of days April hasn't been very spring-like. In fact by the 18th we had set a rainfall record for the entire month. Over 9 inches of rain had fallen. Then on Saturday it snowed. All this moisture has caused many of the rivers in the area, particularly the Grand River, to burst their banks. Record flood levels were reported on the Grand, Thornapple, Flat and Rouge Rivers. Many city streets, homes and businesses were flooded out. This is what leads me to the title of this article - Disaster Tourism.

The Grand River is four feet over flood stage. Notice the street lamps in the middle of the water.

We went to downtown Grand Rapids on Sunday to look at the overflowing Grand River. My unscientific estimate is that several thousand other people did as well. In Lowell, which is situated where the Flat River empties into the Grand River, Main Street saw bumper to bumper traffic of "flood tourists", at least until city officials closed the street due to high water levels. I understand that this is a once in a lifetime event, a true life depiction of the "100 year flood plan" we keep hearing about. But isn't it a bit perverse to go out and watch areas being devastated by Mother Nature? Perhaps I'm putting too strong a point on it. As far as I know no one has been killed by the flood, so we're only talking about property damage. Still I think about when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast and the breathless news coverage. We seem to love a good disaster, whether it's in the movies or, better yet, real life.

I'm not condemning anyone for checking out the flooding, heck, I was doing it. It just struck me as a bit odd to see so many people out and about "enjoying" the flood.

1 comment:

Kendall said...

I purposely avoided being a Flood gawker after I heard officials in Lowell and Grand Rapids were asking people to stay home. Plenty of posts and pix on the net and facebook. Too bad all those folks didn't stay home and give their gas money to the flood victims.