Viridian Note 00248: The Great Flood: Art andBruce Sterling [email@example.com]
Attention Conservation Notice: A melancholy spectacle of primary interest to those prepared to rubberneck at other people's misery. Over 2,300 words.
Entries in the Viridian Hot Rod Contest:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org* (Jim Vandewalker)
Crush competitors LIEK BUG!"
Not a contest entry, but real-life shot of Pope Emperor manning a zippy electric Sparrow runabout: http://www.viridiandesign.org
This contest ends July 5, 02001.
June 9, 2001, 7:59PM
"Allison earns spot in storm history By DAN FELDSTEIN
(...) "Allison has been unanimously decreed by weather
experts as a deluge of historic proportions for its
rainfall totals, flooding and widespread effect. (...)
"Only Tropical Storm Claudette stands as Allison's
liquid rival. In July 1979 Claudette dumped 43 inches on
Alvin in one day == a national record. (((As we Texans
like to say, "It ain't braggin' if it's true.")))
"Claudette was a virtual twin to Allison == not a
brutish hurricane, but a small tropical storm that slipped
ashore and stayed put. (...)
"Comparing storms is difficult because damage and
flooding are often so localized and precise historical
data may not exist. Population migrates around the region.
People worsen flooding by paving over porous ground, but
they improve conditions by building flood-control
"In 1935, a monster storm left two-thirds of Harris
County under water, according to Houston: A History, by
David McComb. Recent historic floods include Tropical
Storm Frances in September 1998, a major storm in October
1994 and another Tropical Storm Allison in June 1989.
"Of those, the 1994 storm may have been the worst,
dumping nearly 30 inches of rain over three days in parts
of Montgomery and Liberty counties. (...)
"While hurricanes cause flooding, they don't top the list of worst floods. They often cause more death and destruction, such as 21 dead and an estimated $1 billion to $2 billion damage in 1983's Hurricane Alicia."
"(...) as the drone of pumps sucking water from
underground parking garages replaced the usual chatter of
pedestrians on downtown streets, it was apparent that the
city had suffered a terrible blow. (...)
"In Houston neighborhoods, stunned residents stood in
worried knots Monday, surveying the damage to their ruined
homes. Furniture, appliances, photographs, books and
bedding stood heaped in dismal, muddy pyramids on front
"Traffic lights in many parts of the city remained
out of service.
"Rental cars were virtually impossible to obtain.
"Police reported 1,365 vehicles had been towed from
"More than half of the Houston Independent School
District's 300 schools sustained damage, prompting at
least a one-day delay in the opening of summer school. The
North Forest Independent School District's administration
building suffered major losses of computers and other
expensive equipment because of flooding. (...)
"The storm played environmental havoc with the area,
and officials were investigating reports of flood-borne
sewage, oil spills and atmospheric releases of chemicals.
In some cases, sewage treatment plants remained inundated
or otherwise inaccessible. (...)
"Postal officials said all stations but the main
Franklin Street office were open for business Monday and
that department workers were trying to salvage water-
damaged mail. (...)
"Meanwhile, the remains of Allison moved out of
Louisiana on Monday after damaging an estimated 3,500
"President Bush added 10 Louisiana parishes == Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Lafayette, Lafourche, Livingston, St. Martin, Terrebonne and Vermilion == to the federal disaster list. (...)
June 12, 2001, 4:04PM
"Lab animals drown; medical research lost By ERIC BERGER, Houston Chronicle Science Writer
"Weekend flooding in labs beneath the Texas Medical Center
killed more than 30,000 animals and destroyed what one
official called an 'incalculable' amount of scientific
research. (((Another interesting collision of high-biotech
and the Greenhouse. This sort of thing is a 21st-Century
signature calamity, and something that ought to be figured
in when calculating safety factors for genetic
"Rising water in Medical Center basements and local
universities wiped out federally funded research worth
millions of dollars. Meticulously kept computer data were
fried into electronic oblivion. (((Well put!))) (...)
"The college has about 500 labs, an annual research
budget of $310 million and thousands of scientists
experimenting at the cutting edge of a broad spectrum of
diseases. (((We can hope those aren't waterborne
"Although larger research animals, such as dogs and
pigs, were saved, the college's most populous mouse
facility, where some 30,000 animals were trapped, was
entirely submerged. Specially bred mice often take years
to perfect and can be worth thousands of dollars apiece.
(((They're probably patented, too!)))
"'You can't get these animals back again quickly at
any price,' said Dr. Arthur Beaudet, chairman of the
college's department of molecular and human genetics.
(((What if they're specially bred mice loose in the
sewers? One presumes they quietly drowned in their
cages, and there's no particular reason to assume that
Pinky and the Brain got loose in a great scampering
diseased horde, but...)))
"Much of the research using rodents, which often are
the best models for testing experimental drugs, must now
be delayed for one or two years, the time required to
breed new mice carrying strains of various diseases.
"Beaudet said the college opened a new $40 million
mouse facility, or vivarium, about two years ago and was
in the process of transferring the animals there. The new
facility, also underground, is sealed against flooding and
had only a little water on its floor. (((I'll bet they'll
all be "sealed against flooding" from now on, and
eventually more and more Houston architecture will take on
this fortresslike look, in much the way that London has
evolved under IRA car-bombs.)))
"Across the street, at the University of Texas
Medical School at Houston, a few dogs were among an
estimated 2,500 animals lost, but officials could not get
an exact count because the lab's inventory, too, was
"Research facilities also lost valuable equipment
stored on basement levels, such as electron microscopes
and heavy radiation machines. All officials said they had
only begun to catalog their losses Monday.
"Another significant problem at the Baylor College of
Medicine and to a lesser extent UT-Houston was power
losses to special freezers where backup copies of cell
cultures, such as those with cancer, are kept. These
painstakingly grown cells are integral to biological
research and die at above-freezing temperatures.
"About 4,600 pounds of dry ice have been trucked into
the medical school in an attempt to save cell cultures,
said David Bates, director of public affairs for the
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
"But, he admitted, 'The loss is incalculable, meaning
it's large and we just don't know yet.' (...)
"One animal-rights group seized upon the loss of life
at the facilities, saying it indicates researchers believe
their animals are expendable. The centers should have had
evacuation plans, they said.
"'There's really no excuse for this,' said Peter Wood,
a researcher at the People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals' Norfolk, Va., headquarters. 'All of these animals
feel pain; all of them suffered. Drowning's a terrifying
way to go.'
"Wood lamented that the Federal Animal Welfare Act does not include rodents, so there were no legal consequences resulting from the animal deaths." ((That's PETA and those masters o' sabotage at the ALF. I can see they're all broken up about this ghastly mishap. They're sobbing so hard I can barely hear the champagne corks.)))
"For Theater District, an artistic nightmare
(((This is especially painful. Houston may have the
filthiest air in America, but they do pride themselves on
their theater scene.)))
"Signs of calamity were everywhere Monday in Houston's
downtown Theater District as pumps noisily sucked brackish
water from the lower levels of Jones Hall, the Wortham
Theater Center and the Alley Theatre.
"Most of the city's key performing-arts organizations
sustained massive damage in weekend flooding that will
affect upcoming programs and long-term operations.
"The theaters stunk as water contaminated by sewage,
gasoline and debris blocked arts staff members from their
offices. ((("The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the
crowd."))) All three facilities were without electricity.
"Thousands of musical scores and several irreplaceable
instruments were among the casualties at the Houston
Symphony in Jones Hall.
"'This is a catastrophe for us,' said spokesman Art
"Three Steinway concert grand pianos with an
estimated replacement value of $250,000 were ruined. One
was the 'Ima Hogg piano,' a gift from the legendary
Houston arts patron, a symphony founder. (((Ridiculous
name, but a generous patroness.)))
"Musician David Malone suffered a more personal loss:
a prized double bass built in 1692 by Italian Carlo
Giuseppe Testore. It was insured for $40,000, although
'instruments of that quality (sell) for $100,000,' Malone
said. 'That's the instrument that made my career, and now
"The symphony and Jones Hall's other principal tenant,
the Society for the Performing Arts, declared the contents
of offices and other facilities on the building's lower
levels a near-total loss, from desks to computers and the
contents of the symphony's library.
"The library contained scores to thousands of pieces
of music, from Beethoven and Brahms symphonies to the
short works beloved on pops programs. It also contained
historical documents dating from the orchestra's founding
"Despite its losses, the symphony will present all
scheduled concerts through the remainder of the summer
season, Kent said. (((The show must go on!)))
(...) "At the Wortham Theater Center, home of Houston
Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, the 15,000-square-foot
basement was inundated by as much as 6 feet of water.
"The ballet's imposing losses included ballet costumes
for its current production, Giselle, as well as all
costumes for Swan Lake and the company's most recent
blockbuster, Cleopatra. ((("Cleopatra's Underwater City."
Where are those French scuba archeologists when you need
"Production director Thomas Boyd estimated that 250
costumes worth between $600,000 and $1 million were
damaged or destroyed.
"'It's heartbreaking,' Boyd said. 'The (cost of) footwear alone is going to be enormous. We know all the Giselle pointe shoes and suede boots are lost.' (((I don't know why, but this bit about the shoes has stabbed me with its pathos.)))
June 12, 2001, 3:00PM
"Flooding brings concern for a variety of pollution ills
By BILL DAWSON
"Environmental officials mobilized Monday to contend
with flood-related contamination woes ranging from sewage
overflows to oil spills and air pollution releases.
"The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
activated a special strike team to deal with the flood's
aftermath, summoning investigators and emergency-response
personnel from other parts of the state.
"The TNRCC's effort was complicated, however, because
its near-downtown Houston office was closed by a power
outage associated with the flooding.
(((A fine bit of irony there. But it's not quite so
sharp as Houston's massive refinery massive complex
finding itself underwater from ruined weather.)))
"Agencies tried to gauge the severity of problems and
coordinate cleanup and other responses.
"The General Land Office, for instance, investigated
oil spills and related woes, such as the chemical drums
and propane tanks that floated away along the Houston Ship
"'We're now assessing the storm's environmental
consequences, which we expect to be significant,' Land
Commissioner David Dewhurst said. 'The storm released a
lot of contaminants, but the enormous quantity of water
will help dilute and disperse them,' he said. (((Well,
uh, thank goodness for that, then.)))
"A number of small oil spills were reported by
petrochemical facilities when floodwaters stripped oil
from wastewater-treatment equipment, Taylor said. 'Some
tank farms have (containment) booms out, so they probably
lost some oil, but we have no way to say who, or how much
yet,' he said. (((Well, who's counting? In the meantime,
the sewers always bust under these circumstances.)))
"The weekend's inundation created problems for the
area's sewage collection and treatment system, but
officials were still hard-pressed to measure the scope on
"'Some plants are still flooded, and the operators
can't get in,' Taylor said. 'It's still somewhat of a
"Public Works officials know the city's system
experienced some 'excursions' == sewage releases == but
can't say how many occurred or what their environmental
impact was, Johnson said.
"(...) water that had to be pumped from the basements
of hospitals and other facilities in the Texas Medical
Center was chlorinated before being discharged to avoid
the possible release of disease-spreading microbes.
(((Nice touch there.)))
"TNRCC officials, meanwhile, said several small
drinking-water systems in the area had been notified to
alert customers that they should boil water before using
it. The state agency placed advice about drinking water on
its Web site == www.tnrcc.state.tx.us. (((Hope the web is
still up in those septic areas.))) (...)
"Two oil refineries == Crown Central Petroleum and
Lyondell-Citgo == experienced flood-related failures of
floating roofs that prevent the evaporation of smelly,
smog-forming vapors in large tanks, Barrett said.
"'Very strong odors' were present at the Lyondell-
Citgo plant as a result, he said.
"The TNRCC, meanwhile, was consulting with Harris
County officials Monday about where to locate staging
areas for flood-borne debris being collected across the
"The decision was complicated because many major landfills were still under water, TNRCC spokesman Dick Lewis said."
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