Sunday, February 1, 2015

Floods and Other Disasters: Knowing More, Yet Losing More


Despite more knowledge and ability to manipulate nature, we have increased our exposure and susceptibility to natural hazards. Why? Distinguished Carolina Professor Susan L. Cutter explores our current hazardscape

[Historical natural disasters reveal that the severity of the human toll could be lessened—if society and technologists would take heed. But despite the fact that the Federal government handles flood insurance, there is no Federal national database collating data from past disasters that could inform current policies! So pointed out Distinguished Carolina Professor and geographer Dr. Susan L. Cutter from the University of South Carolina in the 2014 Gilbert F. White Lecture in the Geographical Sciences given at the National Academy of Sciences on December 4. Using field research from Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), Cutter examined societal factors making people and places vulnerable to hazards, why hazards vary with location, and what must change if people and property are to be genuinely protected. 
Relevance to the unusually powerful Great Easter 1913 winter storm system and flood? A century later, that natural disaster—which killed some 1,000 people and wreaked more property damage than Hurricane Katrina centered on the industrial northis still the flood of record in Indiana and Ohio as well as in parts of a dozen other states. Climate models predict more intense rainfall in the Midwest in the coming decades, including the effects of Gulf and Atlantic hurricanes penetrating further inland. Indeed, 70+mph winds from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 caused so much damage in Ohio that Ohio itself was made eligible for Federal disaster relief. If climate models prove accurate, intense concentrated rainfall of the scale of the mammoth 1913 storm system and flood today—whether from hurricane or from winter storm system—would be devastating to key national infrastructure. Below, with Cutter's permission, is a summary of her talk “In Harm’s Way: Why More Knowledge is Not Reducing Losses" along with some of her slides.]

We are on a “disaster loss up escalator” in the United States, declared Susan L. Cutter, Distinguished Carolina Professor at University of South Carolina. Despite the fact that we know more today about hazards than we did half a century ago, the statistics are clear: annual U.S. losses to natural disasters have nearly tripled—from under $25 per capita (2009 dollars) in the 1960s to more than $70 per capita in the 2010s (2009 dollars), despite the fact that population itself has doubled.

Why is that? Some explanations are clear: because of greater population density and greater personal/business wealth, smaller-magnitude weather events can produce bigger losses. But it is also clear that intense weather events are increasing in frequency, and that people are building in more high-hazard areas (in part because often they have desirable views, say, of coastline beaches). But the real explanation goes deeper. “In many ways, we have a failure to act to help reduce loss,” Cutter said.

Cutter suggests three causes of the hazard loss paradox:  lack of loss accounting, lack of understanding science, and lack of the use of science in public policy and practice. 

No national database of disaster losses
“We don’t have a national database of hazard event and losses in the United States!” Cutter pointed out, ticking off her first major point about causes for the hazard loss paradox. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a database, but it is only weather. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has some data, but it’s inconsistent. Every Federal agency has some data, but it’s not in one place, and [no single database covers] all hazards.”

The absence of a comprehensive Federal national database of natural disaster losses is not a new concern. In 1999, Cutter recounted, the National Academy of Sciences produced two separate studies followed by a third in 2001, all calling for disaster loss accounting and pointing up the need for such a national database. Fourteen years later, the situation has not changed. That being said, she noted, no other nation has a national database, either.

These three National Academy of Sciences reports from 1999 and 2001
all called for a Federal national database on natural disaster losses.
That begs a key question: “How can you reduce losses when you don’t know where the hazards are, or when, where, and how much?” Cutter asked. “How do you begin to tackle the problem of reduction when you don’t know the baseline?”

A private database does exist at the University of South Carolina. Called the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS), it has more than 800,000 records from 1960 through 2013, geocoded to the county level across the nation, drawing on information from NOAA, USGS, the Department of Agriculture, and other sources of loss information. Until mid-2014, it was searchable online free of charge. Because no Federal support exists to maintain SHELDUS, however, “we had no option but to change to a fee basis,” Cutter said.

Second, she pointed out, hazard science knows some things well. “We know that mitigation works: for example, putting hurricane straps between the rafters and the roof makes a difference in a high wind environment,” Cutter said. “We also know that mitigation pays: every dollar in mitigation spent saves four dollars in losses.” Much is known about monitoring, about the physical basis for extreme events, and about how many people live in high-hazard areas. Forecasts are getting ever better for the timing of hurricanes and impact areas.  
SHELDUS, the only database for U.S. hazard losses, is
not Federally supported.
Other aspects of hazard science are known less well. Key among them are how, when, and where to anticipate complex events or cascading events. “What is the surprise in the system that we don’t know and can’t imagine?” Cutter asked. “We know that there are incredible interdependencies between infrastructure systems, human systems, and natural systems, but we are not sure about the connectivity among them in all places for all things.” 

Also less well known is the effectiveness of existing policies and practices in hazards management, “in large part because we have not done a review or audit of these policies and programs to see if they actually are reducing loss,” she said. Vulnerability is an important component of disaster risk, “but we don’t know how to measure it” nor how to quantify how historic or antecedent social conditions that either increase or decrease vulnerabilities and exposure. 

One thing is clear, however, she emphasized: “Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives are key in hazard science.”

Social vulnerability index
A geographer’s view of vulnerability and resilience differs from an engineer’s or a hydrologist’s because the focus is on “how vulnerability and resilience varies among social groups and varies geographically,” Cutter said. The goal of such studies “is to make a difference: to take the science and to put it into practice.” Over the past two decades, she and her colleagues have focused on ways to objectively measure social vulnerability, resilience, and recovery.

For measuring vulnerability, they devised a social vulnerability index (SoVI, pronounced SOE-VEE): “the identification of quantifiable attributes of populations that make them more or less susceptible to harm, and mapping them to look at geographic distribution,” she explained. 

Interpreting the map, however, requires a deeper, detailed understanding of the social geography across the country. For example, Cutter noted, in the Mississippi Valley, “vulnerability is related to female head of households, poverty populations, and African Americans. That’s very different from what you see in Arizona, where vulnerability is related to Native American reservations. Both are different from what you see in eastern Kentucky, where vulnerability is related to white, less educated, poverty populations. One of my favorite examples [of the need for detailed local knowledge] is Nebraska and parts of North and South Dakota,” she continued. “Although social vulnerability in parts of South Dakota is related to Native American lands, in other areas of the Great Plains vulnerability is related to in situ aging of the female population on the family farm, living on a fixed income with very little resource base or flexibility should that disaster hit. In many instances, the husband has died; the widow has stayed on the farm but the children have moved to the cities to seek employment, so resources are highly constrained.

“We’ve done a lot of testing,” Cutter continued. The social vulnerability index “works in counties, in census tracts, and across different nations.” It is now gaining traction in policy circles as a way of planning how one might distribute or position resources for aid, response, and recovery. “During Hurricane Sandy, we got a call from the regional office of FEMA, asking us to do a run on SoVI for the three-state area because they wanted to see where they might need to deploy resources and target efforts,” she recounted. The index “gives governments a way of prioritizing that they would not have had before.”

Quantifying resilience
Cutter quoted the National Academy of Sciences definition of resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events.” The concept of resilience has gained
keen interest not only in the U.S. Federal government but also in the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Meantime, the Rockefeller Foundation has embarked on a major effort to help cities develop disaster resilience and the National Academies has developed a Resilient America Roundtable to help communities develop a culture of resilience

“Everyone is talking about resilience as a way of moving from a focus on disaster risk reduction to a broader framing in sustainability,” Cutter observed. “The question is: how do we know if these efforts will be successful? We don’t have metrics: We don’t know how to measure resilience, and we don’t have a baseline. If we don’t have a baseline to know how resilient we are now in the absence of these policy innovations, how are we going to know whether or not they are effective?” Moreover, in the literature, Cutter said, the issue becomes resilience of what? and resilience for whom? Thus, attempts at developing metrics for resilience have been inconsistent with one another. “You can look at social resilience, or institutional resilience, or community capital. But across the nation, each of these different types of resilience has a very different geography.”

Measuring recovery
“Recovery is a natural laboratory, where we can actually see how vulnerability and resilience influence the capacity of communities to respond after an event,” Cutter noted. And research questions abound: Does the social transformation of the landscape follow its same trajectory after a disaster as beforehand? Is recovery spatially or temporally uniform? Or are there persistent inequalities in the recovery process? Answering such questions requires some objective way of measuring recovery.

“Well, being geographers and liking to go out into the field after disasters, we’ve developed a number of ways to do this,” Cutter recounted. One “crude but useful” technique was repeat photography: returning to the same locations every six months to photograph the same homes and other structures to document their stage of recovery. The photographs could be categorized using such objective evidence as debris removal, demolition, or rebuilding, and a property coarsely scored as showing no recovery, 25%, 50%, 75%, or full
recovery. Then, “because we [geographers] are very good at all things spatial, you can then take those points and create a surface [map] representing both the spatial and the temporal change,” Cutter said. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, because so many people were rushing to New Orleans, the team decided to focus on residences on the largely overlooked coast of Mississippi. They have now photographically documented recovery at six month intervals along the 130-mile Mississippi coast for nine years.

But recovery in a region is influenced also by “the historical conditions that allow that place to become what it is today,” Cutter said. “The environmental and social history of coastal Mississippi has been shaped not only by hurricanes, but also the historical legacy of social and economic development and segregation.” 

For example, during Hurricane Camille in 1969, there were two separate evacuations, one for whites, the other for blacks. They went to different places. There were inequalities in food aid: Families who had the same number of children who were white got more money from the Federal government than families who were African American. The same thing happened with Small Business Administration loans: 90 percent of them went to white small businesses, not black small businesses. After Camille, Federal disaster money was used for a social good. “Camille struck during the Nixon Administration, and Mississippi refused to integrate its schools,” Cutter recounted. “The Federal government, at the urging of Leon Panetta [then Director of the Office for Civil Rights, a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education], said we are not giving Federal aid money to Mississippi until you integrate the schools. The governor of Mississippi said no. Federal disaster aid was withheld and Mississippi given until December 31, 1969, to integrate the schools. And they did.” 

The patchwork quilt of recovery
is discussed in this 2014 book
That segregation legacy still resonates in coastal Mississippi. “In many ways, Hurricane Katrina was a replication of what happened in Camille 35 years earlier, Cutter observed. It was not as segregated a society in 2005 as it was in 1969, but the vestiges of residential segregation were still there in terms of housing location and the quality of the construction for minority residents.” 

The scale at which recovery is viewed also matters, Cutter noted. At the county level along the Mississippi coast, the general pattern of recovery looks fairly good, but examination at the neighborhood level reveals a veritable patchwork quilt of recovery. As late as 2010, there were still areas in demolition mode. “That is an indication that the scale really matters: that there are some communities and neighborhoods that are simply not recovering, despite the fact that the general pattern looks fairly good,” she observed. Remote sensing imagery also records geographical shifts in development. And changes in demographics reveal that both young families and retirees were leaving the area.

In short, different types of measurements document that “today’s coastal Mississippi has a smaller spatial footprint, a smaller population, fewer retirees,” Cutter summarized. “The majority is still white, but diversity is increasing, largely through an influx of Hispanic populations. There is increasing social vulnerability. We project that it will take about 19 years for the population of communities to return to what they were before Hurricane Katrina.” 

A tale of two regions
Cutter’s second case study was Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York City and the coast of New Jersey in 2012. “Just as we focused on Mississippi because everyone was going to New Orleans, and we focused on New Jersey because everyone was going to New York City,” Cutter said, showing a slide that depicted the social vulnerability map underlying the storm track. As with the Mississippi coast, field teams began documenting the rebuilding of structures immediately after Sandy and at six-month intervals thereafter.

The contrast couldn’t have been greater. “In Mississippi six months after Katrina, zero of those points had fully recovered. But in New Jersey six months after Sandy, nearly 75% of those structures that we visited had recovered,” Cutter said.

In comparing the two case studies, Cutter pointed out factors that made the two recoveries so different. In Mississippi, there was slowness in Federal investment in infrastructure, and the governor made a decision to use the initial recovery money for business development, specifically the Port of Gulfport—meaning that low- to middle-income housing was not constructed, and former residents had to go somewhere else to live. “One of the biggest issues retarding redevelopment was the availability and affordability of flood insurance” from the National Flood Insurance Program, Cutter continued. Because the base flood elevation [the flood height having a 1% chance of being reached or exceeded in any given year] along coastal Mississippi is so high, coverage would require the homes to be elevated 8 to 9 feet above base elevation, plus 1 or 2 feet of freeboard [safety margin] on top of that. “So you’re talking about massive structures,” Cutter noted. In later years, recovery along the Mississippi Coast was further retarded by multiple shocks having nothing to do with Hurricane Katrina. During the mortgage crisis of 2007–2008, people could not get mortgage financing to rebuild their homes. The Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill in 2010 fouled the white beaches and hit both the tourism and fishing sectors of the local economies. And in 2012, the area was struck by another hurricane, Hurricane Isaac. 

In contrast, Cutter noted, a third of the housing stock along the Jersey shore is vacation homes. After Hurricane Sandy, those homeowners “were not flooded from their primary residences, so they already had a house they could live in while rebuilding,” Cutter said. Despite FEMA efforts, there was very little penetration of flood insurance: fewer than half of New Jersey communities carried flood insurance policies. But New Jersey is a highly capitalized, wealthy area. Also, “there was an emphasis on the part of Governor [Chris] Christie to get [reconstruction] moving in a hurry” and rapidly recover the shore, because many of the shore communities depend on summer tourism, deriving 80% of their annual income between Memorial Day and Labor Day. As a result, “many had fully recovered within the first six months,” Cutter said. “These two examples illustrate how context and antecedent conditions in areas make a difference in the timing and the geography of recovery.”

Getting off the hazard loss ‘up escalator’
How do we resolve this hazard loss paradox—that despite knowing more, we are losing more? In her view, getting off the hazard loss ‘up escalator’ will depend on major cultural shifts both within policy groups and within hazard science, her third point.

“We know that hazard science can make a difference—if it is used,” Cutter said. One obstacle, she noted, is the aversion of some political leaders to anything scientific. “They view science simply as a belief system: it’s different from their belief system, and therefore it’s bad and meaningless.” That being said, she noted, there are increased efforts by science agencies to engage policy makers. One example is an international group called Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, which is trying to infuse disaster science into public policy.”

Second, “emergency management has to become management, not response,” Cutter stated. “And it has to become pro-active management, not after-the-fact response. That’s going to take a major cultural shift at the national, state, and local level. We need to base public policy on evidence, not expedient politics and who’s in charge of what committees. We need to think in the long term, not just the election cycle of two years or four years. That’s no way to manage risk or develop disaster policy. And the policy community needs to think of hazard researchers as their friends: We can give you good information on which you can base policy.

“In turn, hazard researchers have to make their research available,” she continued. “Publishing your research in a refereed journal is nice but it goes nowhere. You need to develop ways to reach the policy community. They are not going to read a 10-page technical report; they may read a 1-pager with the technical details stripped out and the key messages in there. You need to solve the problems of the policy maker and practitioner. In fact, you need to go to them and ask what are their problems. Last—my favorite, having worked on IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports—hazards researchers have to get over this thing that they can’t say anything because they are uncertain and don’t know the certainty bands. Instead, we have to think about what is good enough information for the policy maker to use to make a sound decision.

Both communities, Cutter concluded, need to keep in mind the broader long-term vision: the goals of equity, fairness, and the development of a more resilient future for the next generation. That's why were in this business in the first place.


Susan L. Cutter is Distinguished Carolina Professor at the University of South Carolina and Director of the university’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. She has authored or edited thirteen books, more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Her latest book Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi examines the post-disaster recovery along the Gulf coast and the role that historic, economic, and social factors play in producing the differential recovery that is so apparent today.


© 2015 Trudy E. Bell

Next time: Explosion at Equality

Selected references
An audio file of Dr. Cutter’s Gilbert F. White Lecture in the Geographical Sciences given at the National Academy of Sciences as well as a PDF of all her slides are available here. (The audio recording begins on slide 6.) Warm gratitude is expressed to Dr. Cutter for allowing me to reproduce several of her slides.

More about the hazard loss escalator appears in the 2011 journal article
The Unsustainable Trend of Natural Hazard Losses in the United States,” by Melanie Gall, Kevin A. Borden, Christopher T. Emrich, and Susan L. Cutter in Sustainability 3:2157-2181, based on data amassed in SHELDUS. .


Bell, Trudy E., The Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Arcadia Publishing, 2008. Picture book of nearly 200 images of the flood in Dayton, rescue efforts, recovery, and the construction of the Miami Conservancy District dry dams for flood control, including several pictures of Cox. (Author’s shameless marketing plug: Copies are available directly from me for the cover price of $21.99 plus $4.00 shipping, complete with inscription of your choice; for details, e-mail me), or order from the publisher.
 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 1913 Centennial Year +2: Books, Index—and Emmy!


Ringing in 2015 with a roundup of further new (and newly discovered) resources about our Great Easter 1913 national calamity—and kudos to a 1913 flood documentary!

The 2013 centennial of the 1913 flood in Indiana and Ohio and the family of devastating Easter tornadoes in Nebraska inspired a bumper crop of new histories in print and film. For cultural history and lessons learned, however, memories and scholarship must endure into the future, long after a mere anniversary.

Part of the purpose of this research blog “'Our National Calamity': The Great Easter 1913 Flood” (ONC) is to provide a lasting, comprehensive guide to resources published either online or in print about the March 1913 storm system, devastation, and its societal consequences and implications, broadly interpreted. As my second annual New Year’s Day gift to historians, meteorologist, curators, descendants of sufferers, and all those places, people, and events that might otherwise be neglected, below is a collation of books hitherto not referenced:

Annotated bibliographies so far
Sixteen books and two 1-hour PBS documentaries produced after 2000 about the Omaha tornado in Nebraska and the 1913 flood in Ohio—plus three earlier books about the 1913 flood and the resulting mammoth flood control works of Miami Conservancy District—were highlighted in the first resource roundup “Book Report! 21 Books and Films on the Great Easter 1913 Flood and Tornadoes” (ONC, March 26, 2013).

That annotated bibliography was updated about eight months later on New Year’s Day 2014 in “1913 Easter National Calamity: Centennial Highlights—and Legacy” (ONC, January 1, 2014), noting the production of three more books, four more 30- or 60-minute documentaries, and a couple of 4-minute shorts. Also summarized were several videotaped talks, a round-up of TV and radio coverage, museum exhibits, newspaper commemorations (highlighting those that ran significant series of articles or albums of photographs), plus websites and blogs.

A different annotated biography was an analysis of the half-dozen century-old “instant books” published in 1913—which keep cropping up all over the internet cited as if they were authoritative references. “Profiting from Pain” (ONC March 3, /2013) pulled back the veil on their rather dodgy and certainly money-grubbing authors, who wrote under multiple confusing titles and pseudonyms (Frederick E. Drinker, Logan Marshall, Marshall Everett [who was really Henry Neil], and Thomas H. Russell [who also wrote under Thomas Herbert and other names]). 

Also relevant is the discussion of film footage that was shot in 1913 for showing in movie theatres—likely the first time a natural disaster was caught on motion picture film while the catastrophe was still in progress. “Screening Disaster” (ONC March 1, 2014) also includes links to YouTube and other sites that have preserved some of this historic footage for public viewing.

Note before introducing the new resources: Applause is due director Gary Harrison for his 30-minute TV documentary on the 1913 flood in Indiana When Every River Turned Against Us: Lessons from the Great 1913 Flood, produced by PBS affiliate WFYI, which captured a 2014 regional Emmy Award. A 1913 flood still photo from his documentary even leads the article “WFYI Earns Nine Regional Emmys,” which includes a link to the full movie online.

Introducing (fanfare) additional works
Below, in alphabetical order by author’s last name, are five more books on the Great Easter 1913 natural disaster that have come to my attention over the past year (2014). Four are local histories that may be filling in details of ‘Our National Calamity’ that otherwise might be lost to posterity. One is a novel.

Grismer, Stephen C. Drenched Uniforms and Battered Badges: How Dayton Police Emerged from the 1913 Flood. Dayton, OH: Dayton Police History Foundation, Inc. 2013. 

“By any measure, the Dayton police force was undermanned, under-equipped and, after March 24, 1913, underwater and overwhelmed,” writes the author, himself a 25+year retired sergeant in the Dayton Police Force, and thus alert to details of significance that might escape an outside historian. This slim book (110 pages) features more than 70 photographs, including images (some published for the first time) of 19 of the two dozen police officers who stuck by their posts, maintained order, and rescued flood victims, especially during the first four days before 2,400 Ohio National Guard troops arrived in Dayton on Friday, March 28. It is unusual (and exemplary) among local histories in also setting context (Part 1, Police Readiness), tracing consequences (Epilogue, 1913–1922), and documenting statements and quotes with more than 120 end notes. A review of the book in the Dayton Daily News appears here.


Daugherty, Alan. THE Flood: A Bluffton History Novel. Self-published. 2012.

This 254-page novel about a mistaken identity of someone who robbed a bank is set in Wells County, Indiana, primarily during flood week from the windstorm of Good Friday, March 21, 1913 through the following Friday. The five main characters are fictional, although many real people are referenced and the book includes several dozen actual historical photographs (some with captions). In real life, Bluffton was hard hit, and some tidbits and quotations from historical sources do appear in the novel. But as the author notes in the preface, “This story intentionally gathered into a single location as much history as possible, but placed it in a fun, readable experience rather than repeating newspaper accounts or textbook style documentations.” Includes a bibliography and an index of names.

Hinds, Conrade C. Columbus and the Great Flood of 1913: The Disaster that Reshaped the Ohio Valley. Charleston, SC: The History Press. 2013.

Less a local history of the flood in Columbus (which gets only two dedicated chapters out of the book’s 12) than it is an overview of floods in general and other unrelated weather disasters (including the “white hurricane” in the Great Lakes of November 1913), the book also describes flooding in Dayton in some detail, and highlights it in Chillicothe, Zanesville, Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia. It is unusual in briefly wondering whether the eruption of the volcano Novarupta in Alaska in 1912 might have influenced the storm system (something actually that a few people have wondered for years, including myself since 2006). The book ends with a brief account of the Miami Conservancy District and the earthworks protecting Dayton, a timeline of significant historical events in 1912 and 1913, a brief bibliography, and an index.

This is How Dayton Looked After The Great 1913 Flood. Dayton, OH: Landfall Press, Inc. 1973. 

This slim 48-page booklet of photographs was a commemorative publication on the sixtieth anniversary of the flood in March 1973. What is interesting historically is that the booklet’s back cover copy clearly demonstrates how public memory is already disconnecting and fading about the widespread extent of the disaster, noting that “Dayton, Ohio, suffered the second worst natural disaster (after San Francisco) ever to befall an American City.” NOT NOTED OR CREDITED anywhere is the fact that this four-decade-old booklet was actually a reprint of a commemorative photographic booklet by Clarence B. Greene called Great 1913 Flood: Dayton, Ohio published in 1913 by the Specialty Photograph Co. Shame on Landfall (and hurray for the internet).

Miller, Frank. The Great Dayton Flood of 1913. 100th Anniversary Edition 1913–2013. Dayton, OH: Mill-Cliff Books and Graphics. 2013.

This 60-page large-format print-on-demand booklet is based on Dayton: Being a Story of the Great Flood as Seen from the Delco Factory, a key eyewitness history of the flood originally published in April 1913. Not a photographic reproduction of the original booklet, the 2013 type is completely reset. Notable is the quality of the photographs—much better than the lithographed original—because the compiler Miller came into possession of a trove of original photographs several decades ago, and printed the images from those. Also included is a redone version of a 1949 history of Delco called The Spark of Genius, which includes photos of the flood, plus many other images from other sources.

Fast reference subject index to ONC
Over the past two-plus years since November 2012, fully 32 installments—many of them full-length heavily documented research articles—have been posted to this research blog “’Our National Calamity: The Great Easter 1913 Flood” (ONC). That’s nearly the equivalent of an entire book. A good many of them represent in-depth original analysis by both myself and others, based on new primary sources. Because of the sheer volume of new material, and the frequency of requests for information, below is a subject index to the posts (not including the resource roundups already noted above), categorized by general topic. Please note that an updated searchable running list in Word in reverse chronological order is posted every month at the top left link on the 1913 flood page of my website.

For meteorology of the powerful Great Easter storm system:
Great Easter 1913 Dust Storm, Prairie Fires—and Red Rains (December 1, 2014) A mammoth Easter Sunday dust storm set raging prairie fires fires in two states and caused "blood rains" in three 
Be Very Afraid... (December 23, 2012) Why the Great Easter 1913 storm system could recur—profile of a computational reanalysis from 1913 data of what happened by Cleveland-based National Weather Service senior hydrologist Sarah Jamison
“My Conception of Hell” (December 2, 2012) The Great Easter 1913 Omaha tornado
The First Punch (November 25, 2012) A mammoth Good Friday windstorm that decimated communications set the stage for national tragedy
Earth-Shaking Mystery (October 1, 2014) Earthquake in Knoxville, Tennessee, at end of flood week—could the massive floodwaters have triggered the quake?

For facts and figures about death and destruction:
Like a War Zone (March 16, 2013) A modern reanalysis of official documents, revealing that the destruction of property exceeded that of Hurricane Katrina, centered on the industrial North 
“Death Rode Ruthless...” (February 18, 2013) A modern reanalysis of official documents reveals that a minimum of 1,000 lives were lost across 15 states (this is the second most viewed post in ONC, with nearly 2,000 views)

For victims’, rescuers’, and predators’ responses:
Wireless to the Rescue! Birth of Emergency Radio (April 1, 2014) High school and college students are the first to establish quasi-reliable communications into the flood districts, and at the end of flood week bills for emergency radio are being presented to Congress
High-Wire Horror (February 1, 2014) Literally tight-rope walking over floodwaters to safety
Spurning Disaster Aid (September 1, 2014) Why did cities and individuals, even those who had lost everything, refuse relief?
Advertising Disaster (November 1, 2014) Within 24 hours, tornado insurance agents and others were clamoring for victims' cash

For significance today:
Benchmarking ‘Extreme’ (July 1, 2014) What infrastructure today would lie in harm’s way if the tornadoes and flood recurred

For coverage in the 1913 media:
Screening Disaster (March 1, 2014) The 1913 flood may be the first natural disaster filmed while it was still in progress; includes links to surviving footage  
The Governor’s Ear (December 16, 2012) How two Bell Telephone engineers got the word to Ohio Governor James M. Cox

For enduring consequences:
Magnum Opus (June 1, 2014) Stunning murals on concrete floodwalls in 13 Ohio River cities and towns keep history alive--including the 1913 flood

Morgan’s Cowboys (January 20, 2013) What is the worst possible flood? And how can a city protect against it? A young engineer figures out how
Morgan’s Pyramids (January 27, 2013) Building the monumental but elegantly simple works to protect Dayton forevermore
 
Local histories:
36 Hours: From Boys to Leaders (August 1, 2014) Fewer than 100 Culver Military Academy cadets rescued 1,400 Indiana residents; by guest historian Richard Davies, Ph.D.  
Tragedy at the Circus (February 10, 2013) At Peru, Indiana; by guest environmental historian Ron E. Withers, M.A. (by the way, this is the single most viewed post in ONC, with more than 2,300 views)
Rescuing Albany’s Water (January 13, 2013) It was also the Hudson River’s greatest flood—and what New York did about it
The Prisoners’ Feast (December 30, 2012) How the inmates of the Indiana State Reformatory saved the town of Jeffersonville from floodingand the unique response of the grateful residents  
The Villain Who Stole the Flood (December 9, 2012) How the 1913 flood in Dayton transformed NCR president John H. Patterson—a convicted felon—into a national hero  
An Unnecessary Tragedy: The Johnstown Flood (May 1, 2014) Describing three potentially fatal dam myths that still persist today; by guest author Kenneth E. Smith, P.E.

Record of 2013 centennial commemorations
Happy 1913 Centennial Year! (January 6, 2013) 

Miscellaneous
Forget at Your Own Peril (April 3, 2013) Why is such an enormous disaster forgotten?  
“An Epidemic of Disasters” (November 16, 2012) Introduction and mission for this research blog  

Happy New Year! Thank you so much for your readership. Watch for new research installments to be posted the first of every month throughout 2015! I welcome hearing your feedback: please e-mail me!

© 2015 Trudy E. Bell

Next time: Floods and Other Disasters: Knowing More, Yet Losing More

Bell, Trudy E., The Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Arcadia Publishing, 2008. Picture book of nearly 200 images of the flood in Dayton, rescue efforts, recovery, and the construction of the Miami Conservancy District dry dams for flood control, including several pictures of Cox. (Author’s shameless marketing plug: Copies are available directly from me for the cover price of $21.99 plus $4.00 shipping, complete with inscription of your choice; for details, e-mail me), or order from the publisher.