Saturday, June 17, 2006

THE CITY DESK - Rory Riddler, Councilman Ward 1

Looking For Hook To Attract
Business Investment To Region…

How About Better Odds Of Survival?

Yesterday I saw a promo for the newest Sci-Fi made for television movie. This one centers around a mysterious black hole opening up somewhere near Branson and threatening to devour the Gateway Arch and all of Eastern Missouri. I guess I wouldn’t have minded so much getting walloped by a meteor or the latest trendy pandemic. It just feels…I don’t know…unseemly for Missouri to get sucked into a black hole. Call me an apocalypse snob, but that isn’t how I saw us going out.

In fact, it seems like far more plausible disasters are routinely rained down on other sections of country, while St. Louis sits poised serenely in the eye of the storm. Our miraculous good luck, seems to have escaped the notice of corporate decision makers. They should be standing in line to relocate operations to a region where they and their employees are less likely to be blown up, blown away, drowned, eaten, or buried under several feet of snow or volcanic ash.

Give the credit to Pierre Laclede and Louis Blanchette, or call it a fortunate accident of geology and climatology, but St. Louis and St. Charles don’t get the credit they deserve for being such safe places to live and work. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole black hole smear isn’t being paid for by the State of Florida.

Why Florida? It’s the obvious suspect being the most “unsafe” place in the nation. Don’t let those smiling Disney characters fool you…Florida is a death trap.

Knowing that tourists might be scared away by all the media attention given shark attacks, the Florida Department of Tourism paid for a display at one of State’s larger tourist attractions. It was a two story map of the state with a fin to represent every shark attack. Then to drive home the point that you are more likely to be hit by lightening than to be attacked by a shark, they put lightening bolts all over the map where people were hit by…you guessed it…lightening.

Little lightening bolts covered the map and I must say it worked wonders. I wasn’t near as scared of being eaten by some Great White as I was being struck dead from a bolt out of the blue. They probably shouldn’t have picked lightening strikes for their comparison as Florida, being flat and having a moist atmosphere leads the nation in people getting struck by lightening.

A lot of the lightening comes from being the leading State for tornados. I know we all thought it was Texas, Kansas or Oklahoma. In fact Oklahoma does lead the nation in stronger more destructive tornados. But, of the 1,200 tornadoes that are reported in the U.S. on an annual basis, most occur in Florida.

Now if you get caught in the path of a tornado the survival tips all say to get out of your car and lie down in a ditch. That works great in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. But in Florida there are alligators hiding in those flooded ditches waiting to get the people trying to escape from tornados and lightening. Did I mention Florida leads the nation in alligator attacks? Or as I like to call them…land sharks. It’s all part of the great circle of life.

In researching a few facts for this column (the ones I didn’t make up), I learned that the annual probability of most of Southern Florida getting hit by a hurricane is around 20%. That would compare with the annual probability in St. Charles of being hit by a hurricane being…let’s see….of yeah, zero.

To be fair to Florida the rest of the States don’t fair much better. Major hurricanes can devastate coastal areas as we saw in New Orleans from Texas to Maryland. Massachusetts experienced terrible flooding this year and most of the Northeast has suffered through killer blizzards. Lake affect blizzards dump huge amounts of snow on northern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Texas has droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados and fire ants. (Bush must have been glad to get out of there).

Moving west from here we have Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma…the three states Mother Nature uses for golf-ball size hail target practice. In Yellowstone Park five bison recently dropped dead from the toxic gases seeping up from the same underground volcanic activity the fuels the hot geysers. Active volcanoes can also be found in Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and California, which together have most of the 169 volcanoes identified in the United State; only twelve of which are monitored. Of course California has more to worry about than volcanoes, with all the earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires and Arnold Schwarzenager.

I haven’t even had time to touch on the effects of Global Warming. As New York and Miami slowly sink, I think we have a real opportunity to attract companies from those cities to move here…at least those below the 27th floor.

Now, I don’t want to gloss over the fact that there is a seismic fault line at New Madrid which could cause damage here. It last caused a major earthquake in 1810 and does so every few hundred years according to the geological record. We also have floods, but the difference is they impact far less of our population thanks to the region using FEMA grants to relocate homes and businesses to higher ground.

My observations are, for the most part, unscientific. But then so are most marketing claims. I remember that Wonder Bread was suppose to build strong bodies twelve ways till someone asked them how. So before someone starts asking intelligent questions, I propose we launch a marketing campaign with the slogan:

Missouri…Mother Nature Likes Us Best!

Take that Sci-Fi Channel.