Matt and Tessa Ribble, a young, outgoing and now technically homeless couple, bought their first house eight years ago in Bellevue's Beech Bend neighborhood, just a few miles north of Highway 70. A year later, they had a child, and Tessa left her teaching job to be a stay-at-home mom. Matt, meanwhile, worked as a sales representative. Now with three children, all zoned for Harpeth Valley Elementary, one of the best schools in Metro, the Ribbles figured they had found a home where they'd stay a while. Why would they leave?
Built in 1983 with a blend of brick and vinyl siding on the exterior, the Ribble's home sat 150 feet or so from a tree-lined ridge perched high above the Harpeth River, which on most days at least, meanders lazily through their neighborhood. When the couple first looked at the home, everyone told them — insisted, in fact — that the area would never flood. Maybe on occasion, after a hard, heavy rainfall, the narrow river would rise 10 or 20 feet and slightly overflow over its deep curves, but that would be the end of it. In no time, the Harpeth would swoon below the ridge, back along its natural basin, and settle down.
Officially, the home sat in a 500-year-floodplain, which meant that in any given year, it faced a 0.2 percent chance — yes, that's 0.2 percent — of being overrun with water. The Ribbles chose not to buy flood insurance. "I'll take my chances," Matt recalls thinking at the time.
Then on May 1, a rainy Saturday night, Matt and Tessa's friends called to warn them that the Harpeth might flood. Neither was worried. They had lived in their home for eight years, and not once had the river in their backyard ever caused them a moment's unease. Though charmed by their friends' concern, the couple didn't give the rain much thought and soon went to sleep.
A few hours later, Jonathan and Rebecca, who lived two houses away, were awakened by Luke, their mixed-breed rescue dog, who had been emitting a series of eerie, odd-sounding barks. The couple, half groggy as they were roused just before the break of dawn, let their dog out the back door and started to hear him splash away. Luke was swimming.
Startled, John and Rebecca frantically canvassed the area and banged on windows to alert neighbors, including the Ribbles, who soon discovered the Harpeth had erupted 20 or so feet over the ridge and now was creeping into their backyard. After hesitating a moment or two — "We still didn't think our house would flood," says Tessa — Tessa took Rosie and Henry, the two oldest children, as well as Louie, the baby, and packed them in her Toyota Sienna minivan. Matt took the family dog in his Matrix. As they fled their home, just after dawn, they each pushed through steep walls of water that splashed mightily against their car windows. They tried not to panic. Tessa and the kids said their Hail Marys, hoping to make it to high ground, but as their once-cozy street morphed into a dangerous rise of angry water, the Sienna sputtered and stopped. Matt parked his car and headed back for his family. As Matt made his way back to rescue Tessa and the kids, a neighbor waded into the water and pulled all of them out. The baby, Louie, wasn't even crying. He just looked shocked.
The Harpeth, meanwhile, was flowing into the first floor of the Ribbles' home and swirling all around their neighborhood. So ferociously did the river run that it lifted the family's tool shed off the ground and pulled it all the way across the basin, lodging it against the opposite bank. Their children's swing set disappeared without a trace. A few of their neighbors lost entire backyard decks. When the Ribbles returned to their home three days later, they discovered that 8 feet of water — make that 8 feet of water from a muddy river — had made its way into their kitchen, living room and dining room. It will cost them $90,000, more than half the appraised value of their home, to replace the walls, siding and floors. That is, if they decide to rebuild.
What Matt and Tessa didn't understand when they bought their home is that their relatively new corner of the neighborhood — an area that was to expect serious flooding only once every 500 years — actually endured the wrath of an angry Harpeth in 1975. A good part of the Beech Bend area simply should not have been built. Previously, those properties had been a feeding lot for cattle.
But just months after the 1975 flood, the Metro Planning Commission considered a new development in the Beech Bend neighborhood. Residents who lived on higher ground, near the proposed site, complained, saying that building in that area would be harmful to everyone. In a story about the meeting, WSMV-Channel 4 noted that maps at the time from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has been criticized for its lack of communication during the flood (see sidebar), showed the Beech Bend area in a "sea of blue." (Blue on such a map marks areas prone to flooding.) But the project engineer told the Metro Planning Commission that he could fill the floodplain with dirt from the riverbank and that it could be "done in an orderly way." Unanimously, the Metro Planning Commission allowed the engineer to go forward with his plan.
"There was no question that area flooded and would flood again; the only question was how high the water would get," says Jon Johnson, who lived in an older, higher part of the neighborhood and warned the Metro Planning Commission 35 years ago about approving new development around Beech Bend. "When I bought my home, I never thought anyone would be stupid or crazy enough to build a home in that flood area. "
Over the last 20 years or so, Metro Nashville has learned to respect, if sometimes begrudgingly, the power of its rivers and creeks. In the early 1980s and again in 2003, the city restricted development in floodplains — often to the angry protests of builders, engineers and lawyers. The city also began to buy out property owners whose homes were once built, for whatever zany reason, in the floodway, an area defined as where the water will flow in the event of a heavy rain. Meanwhile, the Metro Planning Commission and Water Department promoted the building of lots and structures that, if not environmentally perfect, at least generally exercised a healthy respect for the surrounding waterways.
But Metro has occasionally flirted with disaster by giving developers variances to build along rivers and creeks, while angering neighborhood groups who know that they will be saddled with the cleanup long after the builders have gone. Not long before the flood, the city even gave its own police department a variance to build a precinct along Richland Creek on Charlotte Avenue. Then in May, angry storm waters pillaged the future site of the precinct, which was to include the city's DNA crime lab that would have sustained grave damage had it been built. Cold cases might have been forever frozen.
Meanwhile, as Mayor Karl Dean and Metro officials figure how, where and whether to rebuild two months after Nashville's hellish baptism, they confront a series of maddening variables — known-knowns and known-unknowns, as Donald Rumsfeld might say — that will render all policies and decisions fraught with doubt. Climate change, aging shopping centers and subdivisions, faulty dams and an obtuse, secretive Army Corps of Engineers (again, see sidebar) all may heighten the prospect of another devastating flood in the near future. Parts of town once thought to be safe may now be at risk, while areas already deemed risky may need to be flat-out abandoned. Making matters worse, maps of floodplains, used by Nashville and nearly every city in the country to drive policy, may very well be out of date and all but useless. It's hard to know where exactly to go from here.
"There are no right answers," says Tessa Ribble. "I was talking to somebody the other day and they said whatever decision we make — to rebuild or walk away — there's no real way to know if we're right or not. We're just guessing."
If your goal in life were to increase the risk of a deadly, damaging flood, you'd probably build something just like the Belle Meade Kroger on Harding Pike west of White Bridge Road. While modern planners discourage developers from building to the bank of a stream, to give rushing waters a chance to calm down a bit, the Belle Meade Kroger (owned by the savvy, omnipresent Jack May of May Town Center fame) actually jumps across Richland Creek. In fact, while the asphalt parking lot advances to the precipice of the winding waterway, the building itself straddles the basin with part of the structure resting on heavy concrete piers lodged into the opposite side of the bank.
So what happens when it rains? The water gathers on Kroger's giant parking lot, soaks up the oil and grime left by the location's largely privileged customers, and careens straight toward its share of the creek, which thanks to those heavy piers, is now weak and battered. Until Metro began requiring as much as a 75-foot buffer between the edge of a project and the stream, developers tried to use every last square inch of their property, even if that meant building to the very edge of the water — or in some cases, over it.
"The reason you do that is that you want to have as much parking as possible in the front, and that becomes more important than protecting our creek and watershed," says Metro Councilwoman Emily Evans, whose district sits a few dozen feet from the Kroger. "That's a crazy place to put a shopping center. We took the position at the time that the use of the property to its highest level was more important than protecting that creek and we'd be OK because we were building it on stilts, and Kroger wouldn't flood, and the creek would flow under it, and we'd all be fine. And that was a very short-term way of looking at things."
Now take the Belle Meade Kroger and multiply it by every strip mall, subdivision and mega church built in and around Nashville's delicate web of waterways up until the 1980s, if not later. What you get is a veritable anti-greenway, a collection of misguided, environmentally brain-dead developments that pollute our water, overwhelm our creeks and, in the event of an especially heavy rainfall, propel disastrous amounts of water toward anyone and anything downstream. These were the projects that either ignored the fact that there were creeks and streams flowing around them or, even worse, sought to disturb them.
"Old shopping malls and parking lots built in flood-prone areas can cause an overall rise in floodwaters that can damage other property owners who might not otherwise get flooded," says Metro Councilman Jason Holleman, whose Sylvan Park-area district encompasses the Kroger and a winding swath of Richland Creek. "Often, it's the people near these aging, over-paved developments who did nothing wrong and had no reason to think they were at risk who pay the price when the rain falls."
Some developers now try to make things less unpleasant for folks downstream. Take the relatively new Hill Center in Belle Meade, a 10-acre, $32 million project that replaced a concrete jungle of a shopping plaza on the opposite side of White Bridge Road from the offending Kroger. The two projects are as different as Joan Rivers and Zooey Deschanel. H.G. Hill Realty CEO Jimmy Granberry, landscape architect Kim Hawkins and civil engineers at Barge Cauthen & Associates designed their development to restore — yes, you read that correctly — some of the natural green space, including a buffer ranging from 50 to 125 feet from the creek to the Publix grocery store. Meanwhile, the project uses natural elements to detain some of the storm water that would otherwise drain to Richland Creek. Bioswales, which are essentially strategically placed vegetation that funnel into a draining system, collect and treat storm water, which is then reused by the development to reduce energy costs. This is what gives Al Gore wet dreams.
"I don't think the Hill Center in Belle Meade will pay one dime to Metro water," Hawkins says. "The idea of low-impact developments is to keep as much of that water on site as possible."
The design of the Metro Courthouse and Public Square follows the same principle. The courthouse has a 50,000-gallon water-harvesting tank tucked far below the parking garage — who knew? — that gradually filters storm water and pumps it back up where it is reused. The point is to slow down rushing water, spread it out and allow it to soak.
But even projects like the Metro Courthouse and the Hill Center aren't perfect. To the chagrin of a few environmentalists, The Hill Center, in particular, needed a variance to allow it to creep closer to Richland Creek than allowed by current law. Still, each project marks the growth of a burgeoning mindset, among both developers and city planners: Try, if possible, to tread lightly.
"We want that watershed to act like it did in its pre-development stage," says Paul Davis, the director of water pollution control for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. "We want the watershed delivering water to channels at the same rate as it naturally would have, had the area not been developed."
None of this is to say that poorly designed developments cause floods and well-designed ones stop them. The heavy, crushing rainfall that battered Nashville in May would have caused flooding even if a committee of Buddhist monks and Portland, Ore., city planners assembled every structure in town. But if you approach development with an ounce of foresight and common sense, you give your city a fighting chance when disaster does strike.
What Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan wants to do toward that end is probably extreme by builder/developer standards. After the flood, he filed legislation that would essentially prohibit development in the 100-year floodplain, but Dean's administration asked him to defer it until the city could figure out what new standards, if any, would be prudent.
"I'm not trying to totally alienate property owners from being able to develop their property," Jernigan says. "But I want to prevent a situation where the government has to come in and buy out someone's property, so we will definitely prevent any development in a floodway, which I was stunned was still happening."
Predictably, Jernigan's now-stalled legislation has raised the hackles of builders and developers, who are urging a slow, deliberate process of formulating new rules, if any.
"The builder/developer community is never going to be content with the government doing a study and then telling us what to do," says Nashville attorney Tom White, who has long represented major developers. Given that there are millions of dollars invested in areas that could be affected by any public policy changes, he says, any new rules would have to take into account the "vested rights of current owners" and should seek consensus.
"My gut feeling is that most builders and developers are going to urge caution, given that this was an unprecedented event," White says. "And everybody ought to be on the same page."
After all, among the areas in floodplains are the Titans stadium and MetroCenter. "Surely they're not going to recommend the Titans not play over there," he says.
Actually, many of the words White uses to describe what policy makers and consultants might develop — "thorough" and "comprehensive," for example — are similar to the talking points of city officials.
We support [Jernigan's] effort, but it has to be deliberate," says Metro Water Department director Scott Potter. "I don't think anyone wants to see a rush to legislation. It has to be comprehensive, thoroughly vetted. I think we're all shocked by what we saw. Anything that we do from here has to be well thought-out."
The mayor's office says that, for now, everything should be on the table. "We may need to ban all development in the floodplain, but we don't yet know everything we need to know," says Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote. "We need to be careful about how we do this. We're making decisions for the next 20 years or more. We need to make sure that we do our homework and that whatever we do, we do this in a way that stands the test of time."
But Jernigan, among others, fears that if the city doesn't act soon, while the tragedy is still fresh in everyone's mind, it might be too late. "If a bill like this is going to go through, it's going to go through now."
Jernigan's measure builds off of a controversial 2003 ordinance backed by Metro Councilmen Bruce Stanley and John Summers that restricted (but did not prohibit) development in a floodplain. Though it was picked apart by developers, along with Saint Thomas Health Services, which owned commercial property in a low-lying area behind its hospital, the bill undoubtedly prevented the construction of hastily built new subdivisions in dangerous areas and likely saved lives, if not millions of dollars. Now in the wake of the May storms, others insist the city needs to do more.
Dorene Bolze, executive director of the Harpeth River Watershed Association, says that Nashville, like all municipalities, has to consider that new development is going to have to mitigate the older developments that are causing so many of the storm water problems. "Any new development is going to add a little bit of new water into the river. ... You still have to recognize that what happened was unusual, but it's also time for some of our rules to be re-examined."
As Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper aptly says, "They didn't build the Sistine Chapel on low ground."
Over the last few decades, memories of past floods have faded, coinciding with the increasingly inverse relationship between developer greed and good sense. Taken together with an overreliance on dams, the way Nashville and most American cities have developed not only makes us more vulnerable during natural anomalies such as the 15 inches of rain dumped on Middle Tennessee in May, but it also underscores the wisdom of our forebears.
"The old-timers were really smart," Cooper says. "In Bellevue, the old Bellevue Plantation didn't flood. Only their bottom fields flooded, which are now subdivisions. The old-timers, even without the science we have today, they knew which areas were dangerous and which were not."
The Ryman never flooded. Or the Metro Courthouse and statehouse. "We're a little bit like New Orleans because the French Quarter never flooded in Katrina," Cooper says. "The Garden District never flooded. That's on high ground."
Tim Walker, director of Metro's Historical Commission, confirms that Nashville historic homes were all but untouched during the flood. During a fairly comprehensive post-flood assessment, the agency found just a single home — a 1930s house in the bend of the river in Madison — had suffered any significant damage.
"Everything else fared well, and you have to think that if it's been around long enough to be historic, then it survived worse floods," he says. "In 1929, it was four feet higher than it was more recently — and, obviously, all before we had a dam system — but people had more sense then."
The question now is, how do we balance prudence with economic development and environmentalism?
Cooper recently gave a speech about the flood to captains of industry at the Downtown Rotary Club. Among his points was that over the course of the last several presidential administrations, federal disasters — and their corresponding federal relief — have risen dramatically. (There is a federal disaster every three days.) Which means that homeowners, developers and municipalities view the federal government as a sort of backstop, insurance against total loss. As if to think, "Hey, FEMA will bail us out." And it generally does.
"A lot of communities don't have to think about it anymore," Cooper says. "Nobody wants to take appropriate precautions."
The phenomenon has depleted some of the sense of urgency about progressive development. Even so, Cooper says, now is the time to fine-tune planning and public policy rules to affect smarter development. "I think the best chance for [the business community] to embrace it is to move swiftly while memories are fresh. The longer we wait, the harder it will be."
On most days, Richland Creek dips under Charlotte Road as heavily used paved lots parallel its frayed edges like a straight jacket. Anything and everything drains into the creek. Some of the most noxious businesses you could place along a watershed — gas stations and car lots — anchor both sides of that stretch of Charlotte. No doubt, they wash gallons of nasty petroleum products into the creek, which then make their way to the Cumberland.
On May 2, the creek exacted its revenge and tore through a Pep Boys and several other industrial business and shops. It also ripped up a vacant car dealership on the north side of Charlotte. That would not be particularly significant — other than the additional grime washing out into the water — were it not for the fact that Metro had planned to put its West Police Precinct and DNA Crime Lab on that site. Had Metro been ahead of schedule, or if a flood like that flashes again, it could be disastrous. Even now, the city looks foolish for spending $4.2 million on the property, especially since neighbors and clean-water advocates had warned them about placing a police precinct in an area prone to flooding.
"It's so crazy that a city buys [this] piece of property — we paid top-dollar for it and now it's flooded," says Monette Rebecca, a member of the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance. "You could imagine if we had DNA evidence there. ... And can you imagine if that lot was full of police cars?"
City officials note that they carefully selected the West Precinct site and that the May floods that overwhelmed the future location were an anomaly. In fact, they say that the site of the building itself isn't even in the 100-year floodplain, just the parking lot. (The mayor's office now says that the crime lab will not be relocated to the new West Precinct.)
Still, with questions over the accuracy of the flood maps, neighborhood advocates say that Metro should look for another location to station its cops, particularly since in the event of a flood, they are — along with fire fighters — the first people you need.
"I can't imagine why the city would even consider that location for a precinct now, " says Donald Safer, who lives near the site and is board chairman for the Tennessee Environmental Council. "We know that building can be underwater, so how can they possibly consider going forward with that plan?"
There are other environmental issues that surround the West Precinct site. The parking lot encroaches on Richland Creek and extends past the city's buffer requirements for developers. Metro had to receive a variance for the cop shop parking lot, and much to the consternation of neighbors and environmentalists, the Stormwater Management Committee granted one in March, two months before the flood hit.
Tom Allen, the knowledgeable chairman of the Metro Stormwater Management Committee, says he voted for granting the variance because the construction of the new site would actually improve the protections for the creek. In fact, at the urging of the committee, Metro made plans to restore some of the natural buffer for Richland, ripping up some of the pavement from the old car dealership right near the water's edge.
"They are going to regrade, restore and replant, and at the end of the day it will be much better than it was before," Allen says.
But Councilwoman Emily Evans, who sat in for district council member Jason Holleman during the meeting, dusted off an executive order from Mayor Dean that called for making improvements to take Davidson County's streams off the Environmental Protection Agency's list of impaired waterways. This type of project, while not exactly an environmental crime, doesn't follow the spirit of Dean's order, she told the committee. Besides, shouldn't Metro be setting an example for private developers?
"We're the government; we should be leading the way," Evans explains to the Scene.
A debate about a water buffer, unless you live nearby, may not necessarily seem like the stuff of high art or drama, but it does perfectly encapsulate the city's approach to redeveloping property that may one day be in floodwater: That is, the city's first goal is to make sure the new project doesn't funnel more runoff into creeks and rivers. If it does improve the situation and yet still requires a variance, the city will probably let you rev up the bulldozers.
The logic does make some sense: If a new project, replete with the latest in green design, replaces a rundown shopping center anchored on an endless slate of oil-stained asphalt, which because of its age isn't subject to existing regulations, then you've improved the situation. Besides, if the city didn't grant these types of variances, fewer people might be interested in buying aging properties and spending the additional capital needed to bring them up to the letter of the law.
"Fundamentally, if you do a redevelopment, I want an improvement in water quality and water control," says Scott Potter, director of the Metro Water Department, who offers feedback for the Stormwater Management Committee on new projects.
While sympathetic to that point, which is echoed by Allen and many others in Metro, Evans says that the city should still demand more from new developers.
"It goes to this strange phenomenon where the attitude of Stormwater Management and Planning is basically, 'This is as good as it's going to get for us,' " Evans says. "We aren't going backward, but we aren't making much forward progess either."
In general, the Metro water and planning departments, which each have a role in regulating developments in flood-prone areas, garner good marks, including from tough critics like Evans. Similarly, others talk about how both departments used to act as unofficial lobbying arms for anyone who wanted to build anything anywhere.
"It's a lot different than it was 20 years ago when if a developer wanted it, he was going to get it," says Stewart Clifton, who served on the Metro Council from 1987-1999 and now sits on the Metro Planning Commission. "Prior to the Bredesen administration [1991-1999] it was a pretty wild era. It really was much more of a property rights era where developers thought if they owned it they could do whatever they wanted."
Even though the Metro water and planning departments have emerged with stronger reputations in the wake of the May floods, they may have been unlikely beneficiaries of a recession that stalled or killed several questionable projects. Developer Lynn Ellsworth received a variance to build a five-story luxury condo near the Belle Meade Plantation, which was largely located in the floodway — yup, the floodway, where water is expected to rush through regularly. Though the plans called for elevating the project on piers and placing it over the height of a potential flood, it still wouldn't have been untouched during May's natural disaster.
"If he built it, all those cars would have ended up at the Belle Meade Plantation," Evans says. "I do think — and every responsible person agrees — that floodway developments are in harm's way and contribute in a very negative way to how water behaves."
Another proposed project that seems foolhardy in the wake of the floods is the aptly named H20 Urban Waterfront District, a $250 million mixed-use development on the Cumberland River along the Charlotte Pike Corridor in west Nashville. In a press release — um, story — about the development, the Nashville Business Journal gushed that the planned district included "live/work units, condos, restaurants, retail and boat homes." Though the NBJ story painstakingly detailed the project's many amenities — including an arts and crafts district — it neglected to mention one key fact: The 35-acre property sits in a floodplain.
You'd think that a project like that — even if it couched its plans in the favored language of new urbanism and offered pretty drawings of waterfront buildings and stylish lofts with granite countertops — might have received a cold shoulder from the Planning Commission and Stormwater Committee. After all, we're not deliberating over a relatively small police precinct or the alteration of an existing strip mall. We're talking about a brand-new residential, retail and office development in a Cumberland River floodplain. In fact, the Galloway Report, conducted by a federal task force after the Midwest floods of 1993, plainly recommended that governments should avoid new development in a floodplain.
But in April 2008, the Stormwater Management Committee gave the H20 project the stamp of approval. That included granting a variance to disturb Cumberland River buffers and area streams — and one to fill up at least part of the floodplain with "170,000 cubic yards of uncompensated fill." ("Uncompensated" is another way of saying that the new development wouldn't be offset anywhere on the project.) The recession and housing slump have since put the H20 District — wait for it — underwater, and the developer's variances have expired. Still, had construction begun, with the nearby Cumberland River having risen to record levels, the site probably would have sustained major damage.
Tom Allen, who recused himself from the vote because his firm worked on the project, notes that the developer had proposed cleaning up the site, which had been an old makeshift landfill (also not a good use for a floodplain). He says it made sense to give the developer the variance it needed to disturb those stream buffers since they were going to reduce water pollution. But as far as the overall scope of the project? Referring to the flood, Allen says, "That's data we did not have when they came before us." Now he gamely admits that the committee might look at the H20 Urban Waterfront District more critically than it would have earlier.
Poor building decisions have consequences. Today, two months post-flood, Matt and Tessa Ribble's Beech Bend neighborhood, like many others throughout the city, remains a suburban ghost town with few signs of life. Outside one home, a likeness of a skeleton with a noose around its neck dangles from a tree. A sign pointing to it reads simply, "Looter." A block away, a Metro police car slowly drives around the neighborhood. Tacked to a telephone pole is a sign for a missing dog. Dumpsters, trash, discarded furniture and boxes — plenty misshapen by the water — pack driveways and spill across yards and over curbs. On any given block, six, seven, 10 consecutive homes sit empty. Some owners have already tacked permits to their doors and have begun to strip out their water-damaged floors and siding. Other homes, clearly just as damaged, sit abandoned, as their interiors rot within.
Meanwhile, Matt and Tessa's once tidy home, now overrun with unruly grass and weeds, has been stripped of all the walls, floors, insulation and ductwork. A thick sheet of canvas wraps around the house to prevent further exposure to the sun, rain and wind. Though Matt and Tessa will receive a check from FEMA for a little over $25,000 to rebuild, they'll need about $60,000 more to repair their home. They know they'll never make that money back no matter how long they own it. Nor can they sell it in its current state for anywhere close to the mortgage. They hoped the city might consider making their entire block eligible for the buyout program, but that's not likely, especially since their home sits in the 500-year-floodplain.
"How can we sell this house and tell someone that the river is not a problem?" asks Matt Ribble. "What Realtor would show people our neighborhood in the first place?"
The Ribbles have no idea what they want to do. They just know they don't want to stay.
"If we have to build out the place, we're going to rent it out," Matt Ribble says. "We'll never get our equity back, and the neighborhood will never be the same."
Ironically, even though their property is clearly at risk for another flood — having suffered two of them now — Metro is now making it easier for the family to rebuild their home just as it once was. At first, the city urged more protections, telling the Ribbles that if they wanted to begin the process, they would have to elevate it. Now Metro has mysteriously changed course, telling the Ribbles that they can go ahead and rebuild with no added precautions, as if what happened in May was a rare event — like an asteroid falling from the sky — and not something that occurs with surprising regularity.
"They want us to use taxpayer dollars — FEMA money is taxpayer money — along with our hard-earned money, to rebuild our home in a neighborhood that was under 8 feet of water, and they're doing absolutely nothing differently," says Matt Ribble. "Why would they let us rebuild our homes if the area is going to flood again? Who's going to keep on paying for this?"
Humphrey's column is excellent.
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