Friday, August 03, 2007

The Bridge Aftermath

Here in Minneapolis, we’ve had about two days to adjust to the collapse of the I-35W bridge into the Mississippi river. It's a bit surreal because I have only seen the situation on tv reports even though it’s only a short bike ride away. It just seems a bit unseemly to me to go down there sightseeing when a very sad recovery is still taking place.

This afternoon, I was working out in my back yard with my dad when a dozen or so helicopters started flying overhead. They were quite low so we knew something was up. It took us a while to figure out that it was most likely first lady Laura Bush taking a tour of the scene up and down the river. The route of the helicopters left them turning around in the airspace over my house. We waved; we are Minnesotans after all ;-)

This afternoon, was the first time I drove over the Mississippi since the collapse. Not a big deal, but you certainly do noticed the bridge so much more…the size of it…..the lanes of traffic… high it is. Some of the jr. high aged boys in the neighborhood have been heading down on their bikes in that direction in the afternoons to check on events….you can hear them loudly discussing things on their way back home after their adventure. I’m sure this is something they will remember the rest of their lives.

As we started to learn more about the 5 people that have died….and the 8 people that they fear are still missing. The thing that strikes me is how typical Minnesotan these people seem to be. People that would make good neighbors and friends. People that you would like, if you knew them. There is an unfolding story of a missing pregnant woman who was driving with her toddler daughter. If this unfolds as we fear, it is going to be very sad story.

The media has covered most aspects of the collapse. The national media has now swarmed in and we have “experts” from everywhere willing to give an opinion sight unseen and facts uncollected. One of the most idiotic quotes I have heard “bridges in the US are not supposed to fall down.” Silly & arrogant all at the same time. Sigh.

Bits and pieces of odd and random information have stuck with me over the past two days. Kind of small lessons learned, I guess.

My cell phone service is now back to normal. As late as last night it had periods of “Emergency Only” service. Right after the collapse, the service was jammed and, of course, we were asked to stay off our cell phones (not that I ever use mine anyway). From what I have read, Verizon had sporadic service for Wed & Thurs. T-Mobile brought in temporary cell towers about an hour and a half after the collapse. The service that was available was then allocated on a priority basis to emergency workers first. This was all very interesting to me. I had always assumed that service would be pretty much available wherever…whenever. In fact, I had been contemplating dropping my home phone land line. I've changed my mind on that one.

Minneapolis has been in the process of installing citywide internet – for government and city services, as well as residents. I’ve been watching this because I need to find a new wireless provider. They have the infrastructure working in the greater downtown area and have slowly been working their way outwards to the rest of the city. So, when the phone lines went down, Wed. the new provider USI Wireless immediately made the announcement that they would remove restrictions on the wireless service so anyone could use it to send email, etc. Impressive and makes you think the wireless city idea wasn't so bad after all.....

3 minutes. That’s how long it took from the collapse to the arrival of first official emergency responders to the site.

Our Governor was newly reelected last year. The Mayor (I’m not overly fond of the guy, but he has his supporters) has taken jabs at the Gov. in the recent past. The Police Chief is very new and was called into duty after a high profile chief left town under a cloud to take a new job. I don’t know much about the Fire Chief in Minneapolis. That said, I don’t think there could have been better people in place to handle this. After 9/11, I had kind of brushed off city emergency planning as a bunch of lip service. Turns out that they really do have something in place. In an very odd way, this has become somewhat of a dry run for the next terrorist attack.

And finally, there really still are a lot of people that will run towards the catastrophe to help instead of away from it and that is good to know.

I promise my next post will be back to pure house restoration stuff ;-) I have some news on my scrap aluminum metal………


Kathy from NJ said...

In our family whenever we went anywhere together my husband always did the driving. One time in the early '80's we were returning from a trip down south and he turned the wheel over to me. We came upon a bridge (that I was totally NOT expecting) and I had a panic attack. I drove approx 15 MPH straddling the white line and traffic piled up behind us. When we finally got off the bridge I pulled over, I was shaking and really thought I was having a heart attack. For the longest time I was unable to drive over a bridge, especially a high one where I couldn't see the other side.

In 1998 after my husband's second stroke, I had to take over most of the driving, for awhile my husband would take the wheel when we were approaching a bridge. Eventually I could do it myself, but was never happy about it.

In 2001 my husband had his third stroke which left him unable to speak or understand. I do not mean to sound disrespectful, but when the breaking news about the bridge came on the other night, I felt like saying - "See! I wasn't so crazy after all."

If you feel this comment is inappropriate, feel free to delete it.

StuccoHouse said...

Kathy - not at all. First, I'm sorry to hear about your husband. Secondly, it strikes me how our brains are constantly doing little calculations all on their keep us out of trouble. Intuition, whatever. I have a thing about being in a high hotel rooms and driving on the side of semi trucks.

Greg said...

I lived in Santa Cruz during the Loma Prieta earthquake. We were only a few miles from the epicenter, even though most associate it with San Francisco, 75 miles to the north. Anyway, immediately following the quake most phone service between LA and the SF Bay area was restricted to emergency service only. Both land and cell phone lines were all but useless between So. and No. California. My family was in LA and my friends family was in NY. He could call his family 3,000 miles away but I couldn’t call my family 300 miles away. It was strange. We had his Mom in NY call my Mom in LA to tell her I was still alive.

StuccoHouse said...

Greg - Interesting. I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle the whole earthquake thing.

It must be the old Girl Scout in me that wants to be always prepared.

They said that if a call did not go through on the cell, you should try a text message. They were saying that the size of the text was very small and more often than not would go through. A little piece of info. I stored away. Lol...of course, I'd have the figure out how to text.

I suppose the type of disaster determines if land lines go down or not (?). We ocassionally have winter storms here that bring down the lines.

I wonder how the wireless city internet access would hold up. Does wireless internet have the same issues at cell service? My understanding is that city operations were going to switch over to that eventaully ...I assume that means police & fire.

I actually was surprised the T-Mobile (my provider) brought in temp. cell towers so quickly. I wonder where they store those towers.

Cell phones have certainly changed things. You had people on the bridge calling for help and responders arrived so fast. 20 yrs ago, you would have had someone someone nearby....running to a pay phone.

Greg said...

That is interesting about the mobile towers. It seems like quite an investment for a Corporation. I wonder if they are mandated to it in order to get a license.

One thing to remember about cell phones is that they are only wireless between the phone and the nearest tower. After the tower, the signal travels on land lines.

Here behind the Redwood Curtain we have one fiber optic link to the rest of the world, and then there is an antiquated microwave system. Twice in the past year the fiber optic line was cut by accident. All cell phone long distance service and all internet service was lost. Everything else is routed to the over-taxed microwave system. it is a major problem for us. There is talk of a second fiber optic line to the rest of the world. We need it badly.

StuccoHouse said...

I wish I knew more about how that stuff works. My diversify, diversify, diversify. Ironically, it kind of seems that a straight land line is probably the most reliable.....and probably using my old (no electricity required) 1930's phone.

I thought the mobile towers was interesting too. Requirement, no doubt...I suppose they also learned a bit from NOLA and it could be a PR nightmare for them. One tv station did a report about how much it would cost to have enough towers permanently available to assure constant coverage even during spikes of usage like this. They said it would cost in the billions...and result in a $20 per month increase in everyone's phone bill. I guess it makes sense that they build to only accommodate usual usage....I just hadn't thought of it before.

My call was "emergency only" again yesterday afternoon. I guess it was the recovery folks and probably the President. Who, by the way, woke me up yesterday morning with a low helicopter pass over my house. You don't get to say the President woke you up too often ;-)

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