Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Take Me to the River

Dawn has been keeping close track of the level of water in the Vltava lately and reports that there could be flooding in Prague at any minute.
True, Monday’s high temperatures (a steady 75° Fahrenheit according to my thermometer) probably melted a lot of snow upstream, and rainy weather has added a bit to the mix. I thought the water looked higher than usual on Monday afternoon, and today it is unquestionably so, causing some of the trees to appear to sprout from underwater. The ice at the Český Yacht Club is either gone or submerged (probably the former since the boats it encased haven’t sunk). Still, one can only be amused by Czech Radio 7’s overly dramatic account, which exclaims that “The brutal cold finally gave way to warmer temperatures this week, bringing record high temperatures on Monday.” What brutal cold can they possibly be referring to? It has seldom been much below freezing all winter around here. As cold weather goes, this winter may have been unusually long, but it has hardly been remarkably chilly. There were almost no days when I felt miserable walking to the tram stop, which was certainly different from winter in Pittsburgh (not a city renowned for its cold winters either).
But back to the water. Apparently there are some fears that Prague and other cities will experience a repeat of the 2002 flooding, which caused massive property damage, destruction of cultural artifacts, and killed many zoo animals. While it’s understandable that such fears would arise, the 2002 flood is generally considered to be a once-in-500-years flood, or by some estimates even a 1000-year flood. The likelihood of two such floods within four years seems small.
Granted, if one’s own life is impinged on—if one has to replace the floor or the furniture—even a small flood seems disastrous. If one’s pets or children are carried away in the water, it doesn’t matter that no one else’s were.
Fortunately, it sounds as thought the 2002 flood resulted in municipalities (especially Prague) beefing up their ability to deal with floods and other disasters. Petr Kopacek from the General Directorate of the Fire and Rescue Corps says, “Rescue corps across the Czech Republic are prepared to deal with the floods. Firefighters in many locations are monitoring the water levels. In cooperation with the army, they are building flood barriers. At several locations they are pumping water from flooded buildings. However, this is not a situation that the integrated rescue system cannot handle. The situation is serious, but manageable with the resources currently at hand. We are not planning any extraordinary measures.”
It sounds as though, what with helicopters, extra men, thousands of sandbags, and a barrier system in cities such as Usti nad Labem, Ostrava, and Prague, the Fire and Rescue Corps probably has matters well in hand.
As a person who has had some interesting past experiences with excess water in my abodes, and who currently lives pretty much next door to the Vltava, I think I’ll be queuing up the water music on the iPod just to get in the mood. I think I’ll start with Talking Heads’ rendition of “Take Me to the River,” since Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” lacks that special nervous, frenetic quality one prizes at a moment like this. I can’t remember the name of the group that does the song about shoving somebody’s head underwater, so I guess I won’t be doing an illegal download of that just yet.
Our next topic will be bird flu, which I will probably have caught from those Vltava swans who recently succumbed to it.

See: Czech Radio 7, Radio Prague

Illustration courtesy of Nathan.

Photo by Český Rozhlas

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Blogger Kristen said...

The flooding in Prague has made the news here... Hopefully it won't be as horrifying as they are predicting.

March 30, 2006 7:37 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I doubt it. People love to predict disaster. Some cities have been evacuated, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.

March 31, 2006 8:31 AM  

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