Monday, November 09, 2009

9 NOV 09: A Climate for Change

The Alabama coast was under a hurricane watch Sunday night - and if the forecasts are right, Hurricane Ida could bring a lot of rain our way by Tuesday. But of course, the forecasts could be wrong if the hurricane changes course. It could come down to a meteorologist admitting, "Ida'nt know."

There's one section of Phenix City which is hoping heavy rain from Hurricane Ida stays far away. It's the Crowell Park neighborhood, near South Girard Middle School. Some residents say flooding is a constant problem. So if the drought of recent years upset you, people in Crowell Park may have been praying for it.

While we attended a City Council work session last Monday about the Phenix "Friday football fireworks flap," we heard an appeal from residents of Crowell Park. Well, make that the latest appeal. Councilor Arthur Sumbry says residents have complained for more than 20 years. So? I heard Sunday on the radio that health care reform goes all the way back to President Truman.

Kathy Lewis spoke for several Crowell Park residents, and showed the Phenix City Council several pictures of flooding yards. She said the subdivision is "nice when it's not raining." Doesn't that describe most places on the planet - except maybe the forests of Brazil?

"This looks like a little Grand Canyon," Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter commented when he saw one picture of Crowell Park after a rainstorm. Coulter stopped short of offering to turn the subdivision into a tourist attraction - you know, an east Alabama version of Providence Canyon.

Yet Kathy Lewis told Phenix City Council long-time residents of Crowell Park were never told the homes they bought were in a flood plain. "The city has a moral obligation to help us," Lewis said. It always comes back to that in Phenix City - whether to be "Sin City" or not.

This appeal combined with another to make the Phenix City Mayor declare climate change will bring even more rainfall to flood-prone areas. A 1997 University of Alabama study backs up Sonny Coulter's thinking, as average annual precipitation has increased more than ten inches statewide since 1895. So why haven't more stores opened to sell umbrellas and Thompson's Water Seal?

(In fact, the rainfall total in Columbus this year is about 20 inches above average. Yet the water garden in Heritage Park downtown was drained over the weekend -- making room for Ida, I suppose.)

Yet that 1997 study has another chart that's surprising. The average temperature in Alabama actually went down one degree F. between 1895 and 1995. Perhaps that's why the experts don't call the trend "global warming" much anymore - or maybe that's done to protect jobs at heating repair companies.

But I digress: Councilor Arthur Sumbry says after years of "begging and begging" for help in Crowell Park, "now we've got help." That's apparently thanks to a sympathetic Phenix City Manager, who plans to spend $140,000 to study putting a watershed in the area. Perhaps it will be renamed the Hunter's Duck Zone - after Wallace Hunter, of course.

While a possible watershed could stop a creek from flooding in Crowell Park, residents may have to go to court to solve another part of the problem - water coming down a hill from nearby homes. The Phenix City Attorney says Alabama state law allows the city to set rules for grass-cutting, but NOT rules on the flow of water. Which lawmaker made that rule - and did his wife serve on a water board?

Phenix City's Mayor and City Manager assured Crowell Park residents improvements are coming - but NOT overnight. In the meantime, people in this subdivision should look on the bright side. While tropical storms may flood their yards, they might not have to water their lawns at all.

You're invited to hear me sing this coming weekend, at a special "Pre-Thanksgiving" worship service and dinner! It starts Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road -- between the post office and Lumber Liquidators.

BLOG UPDATE: Rep. Sanford Bishop wound up voting for the health care reform plan which passed the House early Sunday. I hope his Columbus office staff enjoys drinking tea, because a lot of it may be coming - albeit in protest.

Let's see what else made news on a picture-perfect Sunday in the South....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer printed a big front-page story touting Federal Judge Clay Land, "known as fair, evenhanded judge." Forget about the upcoming Mark Shelnutt trial - Land might read that headline and resign from the bench to run for Governor.

+ The Ledger's web site reported five men were arrested for gambling in the South Commons parking lot, before Saturday's Fountain City Classic. A man reportedly set up a shell game and a card game - which tells me fantasy football leagues with small-college teams simply don't work.

+ The annual Phenix City "arts and craft fair" concluded at Idle Hour Park. At least that's how the banner outside the Amphitheater spelled it - with plenty of arts, but only one craft. Perhaps some truly crafty person stole a letter "s" from the sign.

+ The Atlanta Falcons whipped Washington 31-17 -- in a game broadcast on not one Columbus radio station, but two. WDAK had the Falcons radio network. WHAL had a small-time national network's broadcast. And WEAM-AM aired the Baltimore-Cincinnati game -- with no new Bengal players demanding to be called by their numbers in another language.

(Former Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall now plays for Washington. He claimed after the game Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith threatened him. I thought "throw a bomb" was still a part of basic football slang.)

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