The word disaster has more than one meaning, of course. A natural disaster is almost always dangerous to someone, if proper steps are not taken. Sadly, sometimes even when they are taken.

But a disaster can also be the best way to describe a response to something.

The Frederick County Public Schools system, for example, during the recent floods met the natural disaster with some disastrous decision-making regarding operation. Thankfully, none of the calls for school buses that had to be rescued in various parts of the county in the wake of Hurricane Ida reported any serious injuries to the children inside of them. To have any of them in that position, however, may fall into a disaster in decision-making. For which, to a degree, the superintendent of FCPS did issue an apology of sorts.

Failing to plan for future potential disasters can lead to even more of the same. Which is why, given the recent torrential flooding, we should remember how much foresight went into the Carroll Creek flooding project over the past several decades.

To be sure, our necks here in the county were not free of pain from the results of the recent major rainstorms. As mentioned, children were still out in the mess, with the bus drivers doing their best to avoid the very thing that happened in the flooded out roadways.

Damage did occur, and there was — and remains — quite a bit of mess to be cleaned up, even as of this writing, from the Ida rains. Already, some have opined in public about what the point of the entire flooding project was. I wonder if it is some of the same people who, when it all began, insisted it was a bad idea to even embark on the endeavor. Or has the honor of complaining about the flood plan now passed on to adult children of that generation?

Yet what didn’t happen in all of this was a declaration of Frederick as a federal disaster area.

History tells us that it has been before. Theater organs floating down the street, as people canoed back and forth on what normally was Baker Park. Tens of millions of dollars to repair after the water finally receded.

And a few years later in the ’70s, it happened again. Nothing quite like having an official stamp of “disaster area” from one’s federal government.

But obviously, it’s better to not have such a declaration, and for the most part, the decades-long work along Carroll Creek has played an inestimable role in preventing it from happening as a result of flooding.

I’m not a scientist, so I can’t tell you what the recent flooding would have looked like had it occurred in a Frederick where no work had ever been done. There may have been an even more efficient, more cost effective way for achieving the same ends, I don’t know. I do know that the overall ends of mitigating flood damage to the downtown part of the city was clearly accomplished, as I have not seen any pipe organs floating about in my lifetime.

So, though we cannot prevent a natural disaster, we have proven capable of preventing a disaster of complacency. This sort of mindset has, and will, if we hold onto it, serve us for decades to come.

Ty Unglebower is a local freelance writer, published author and tour guide.

(1) comment


It is likely I miss nuance here, but I would say "If you expect more water here you need to have a place for it and a place for it to go. The Baker Park Carroll Creek system is a good example. But I also point to the constructed wetlands around Mill Island. And the many retention ponds in Frederick. Frederick is not as prepared as it will be, but past work is impressive.

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