Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Government Fails, Children Drown In Cars And The Elderly Are Swept Away In Storm Sewers

The lethal flooding along Washington Boulevard (much like the recurrent problems along Girty Run in and near Millvale) seems likely to be the product of improper runoff management (related primarily to selfish and careless development practices) upstream, negligent maintenance of stormwater systems, or -- our guess -- both.

The flash flooding in Highland Park did not surprise some public officials (such as those working in Pittsburgh council member Patrick Dowd's office, who have been monitoring the situation for some time) and should have surprised no one. That stretch of road has flooded several times in recent months, dismissing any thought that the recent deaths may be attributed to a freakish, unpredictable act of nature. These catastrophes have been caused by the acts and omissions of people, primarily public officials and developers.

It is easy to view the petty corruption and pervasive ineptitude in many corners of Greater InsolvenCity's municipal life, such as the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Alcosan, as an abstract issue or a tolerable inadequacy. The bodies of two pre-teen girls drowned with their mother inside a car, and the corpse of a 72-year-old woman carried to the river in a storm sewer, are tangible reminders that InsolvenCity's crumbling infrastructure and municipal dysfunction are serious problems with grave practical consequences.

The public should demand to know how the relevant decision-makers responded to earlier flooding, and how those officials (or, better, their successors) propose to avoid more predictable, man-made tragedies along Washington Boulevard and Girty's Run.

UPDATE: From failure, heroism. Reports that seem reliable indicate that a number of emergency responders engaged in heroic conduct that saved lives. Their ingenuity, professionalism and altruism deserves enormous credit.

Infytune: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan


PK said...

Washington Blvd. must be the pinch point for drainage from the East was so bad yesterday that even drains in Shadyside were backing up. The system simply couldn't handle that much rain falling that fast.

I hope that finally heads will roll after this senseless tragedy. But then this is Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post, but also am compelled to note that climate change may also be contributing to our recent freakish and deadly weather. Looking forward to the mayor and PWSA blaming global warming as they squirm to defend themselves.