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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Wisconsin Floods

Many of us have been glued to the television over the last 48 hours watching the wind come ashore and the water rise in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities. Our hearts and prayers go out to those people we see marooned on rooftops, holed up in the stifling Superdome, or just watching like ourselves from hotel rooms all across the South, wondering what they'll find left of their lives whenever it becomes possible for them to return home.

Nature has demonstrated her powers often in Wisconsin, too, though rarely on the scale we're witnessing this week. Perhaps only the Peshtigo Fire of 1871 even begins to compare to Hurricane Katrina in its devastation. But dramatic floods swept through Eau Claire in 1880, Chippewa Falls in 1884, Black River Falls in 1911, LaPointe in 1918, and the lower Wisconsin in the spring of 1965.

Such storms damage more than our fragile and transitory human lives. The breech of two levees in New Orleans on Monday night threatens that extraordinarily beautiful city's 19th-century architecture, from the elaborate cast-iron porticos of its French Quarter to the unique decorative stone carving in its ancient cemeteries. Its museum curators, librarians, and archivists will soon be facing the daunting task of conserving thousands of soaked artifacts and coping with silent but deadly enemies such as mold, mildew, and insects.

If you feel inclined to help, local officials suggest that donations of cash to relief organizations are the most effective actions. You can donate online, for example, to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and many similar groups who will put your generosity to good use.
:: Posted in Curiosities on August 30, 2005

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