The Economics of Disaster

Arthur and Penny Burton stand outside their flooded property. The Mississippi River is due to crest in less than 24hours and the Burtons have decided to stay with their home. Photo: Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

“They have not the slightest chance today against the power of Allah that is working against them, even through the forces of nature.”  —The Fall of America by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad

( – The mighty Mississippi River flows through 10 states, covers over 2,300 miles from Minnesota down into the Gulf of Mexico with 159 cities situated along its banks. Many of these cities, towns and hamlets rely on tourism attractions, agriculture and other industries for business and revenue.


Cairo, Ill., Memphis, Tenn., Vicksburg, Miss., and Helena, Ark., are just a few of the cities impacted by record flooding as water from the Mississippi continued to rise, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation in its wake, harkening to the biblical days of Noah.

“Travel Along the River in Tennessee: Scenery and natural wonders await you,” says the tourist website But, for the thousands of displaced families, business owners, employees and landowners hit by the massive flooding along “Ole Man River”, the largest river system in North America, hardship and uncertainty await.

(top) Gary Dugger walks in his flooded backyard Sunday, May 8, in Memphis, Tenn. Dugger was hoping to wait out the flood in his home but rising water has forced him to flee. (bottom) Inmates fill sand bags for residents in Butte LaRose, La., Tuesday, May 10, 2011, in advance of possible flooding brought on by the opening of the Morganza Spillway.Photo: AP/Wide World photos

New flood records have been recorded in dozens of cities along the Mississippi since flooding began in late April. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports water cresting at 47.9 ft. in Memphis, nearly 14 feet above flood stage. Cresting of 56.5 ft. was reported in Helena, Ark. Cities will not be spared in the upcoming weeks, as 53.5 ft. is predicted for Arkansas City, Ark., 64.5 ft. for Greenville, Miss., 57.5 ft. for Vicksburg, Miss., 64 ft. for Natchez, Miss., and 65.5 ft. for Red River Landing, La.

On May 14, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Morganza Spillway in an effort to prevent flood waters from effecting larger cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge by intentionally flooding surrounding areas. It is the first time the spillway has been opened in 40 years.

Flooding along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers this year was largely due to increased rainfall. “At certain locations in the watershed we had 600 percent greater than normal rainfall, and that’s one of the main reasons we are seeing such historic flood levels,” said Bob Anderson, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reported VOA news.

“Also, the fact is we had a tremendous amount of snow over the winter and all that started melting about the same time all this rain started falling a few weeks ago,” he added. In “The Fall of America,” the Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes, “To be plagued with too much rain will destroy property and lives. It swells the rivers and creeks. Too much rain floods cities and towns. Large bodies of water at the ocean shores lines will be made to swell with unusually high waves, dumping billions of tons of water over the now seashore line.”

“Rain destroys property and kills cattle by drowning them in low lands. Rain destroys the hiding places of vicious beasts and reptiles bringing them out fighting in small towns in peoples’ homes and farms.”

(l) Large areas of Metropolitan Memphis and Shelby County were inundated by record flooding. FEMA works closely with local and state officials to support their response and recovery efforts. (r) Severe flooding inundates parts pf Shelby County, including this mobile home park. FEMA supports local responders in their efforts to rebuild and recover. Photos: Ed Edahl/FEMA

“Rain weakens and destroys railroads, truck line beds and bridges. Rain undermines foundations of all types of buildings. Rain makes the atmosphere too heavy with moisture causing sickness.”

“Wind with rain can bring destruction to towns and cities, bringing various germs, causing sickness to the people. It produces unclean water by the swelling of streams and destroying reservoirs of pure drinking water used for the health of the people. Rain is a destructive army within itself. Hail stones are also a property and life destroyer.”

The Hon. Elijah Muhammad taught that America is surrounded with the judgment of Allah (God) and the weather calamities would increase, taking both a physical and economic toll on a country that for years thought herself invincible.

Millions of acres of land and city infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged. Does America still have the resources and might to rebuild her cities, decimated by the recent barrage of rain, hail, snow, ice tornadoes, storms, floods and wildfires?

Money matters

America is a country $14 trillion in debt that has spent over $685 billion and $273 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively through February of this year, according to the most recent Department of Defense figures. Last month $25 million in aid and supplies was sent to the rebels forces in Libya.

Parts of Texas have been ablaze with wildfires that have burned over a million and a half acres with insured losses over $150 million with an additional $33 million in damage to fencing, pipeline and other farm assets in April alone, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

These losses come right on the heels of a nation still reeling from tornadoes and thunderstorms that ripped through the Midwest and South last month. In its analysis of the U.S. weather events in April, Aon Benfield, the largest insurance broker in the world reported over 650,000 claims have been reported with economic losses over $5 billion. These numbers are expected to rise.

With this latest round of nature’s fury, analysts estimate the cost of the Mississippi River floods could cost upward to $4 billion to $5 billion.

According to the NOAA, the U.S. has sustained 99 weather-related disasters over the past 31 years in which overall damage and cost reached or exceeded $1 billion. The losses for those 99 events combined, exceeded $725 billion.

Thirty-one years ago, in 1981 at the first Saviour’s Day convention held by the Nation of Islam since the departure of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, his top student Minister Louis Farrakhan, embarking on his mission to rebuild the work and teaching of his father, made an earth shattering revelation that shook the world.

Min. Farrakhan announced the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was not dead and was in fact very much alive. “Not only is he alive and well, but he’s in power now,” Min. Farrakhan announced. Over the past 31 years since that declaration and in picking up the mantle of guidance passed to him by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Min. Farrakhan has warned that weather events in the U.S. will increase in intensity.

Cars stand submerged in overflow water from the Wolf River on McMiller Road in Memphis, Tenn. May 10. After weeks of rising to historic levels, the Mississippi River reached a crest just shy of the forecasted 48 feet at the Memphis gauge. Photo: AP/Wide World photo

The ripple effects of the natural disasters are having a severe economic impact that will be felt for years to come. A commentary written by Eric Holthaus on says the recent flooding could result in “a severe economic disruption” with national and global implications.

“Our government’s response to the 2011 Mississippi flood could go as far in determining our country’s future economic path as anything now being debated in Congress. Just like in 1927, it may prove to be a turning point in history,” he notes.

“The Mississippi River basin covers 31 states and 72 million people. The majority of our grain exports go through New Orleans, including 90 percent of corn exports (alone worth roughly $10 billion a year). Potential trade impact?: $100 billion,” writes Mr. Holthaus.

All 19 gambling casinos in Mississippi along the river have been shut down, putting 13,000 people temporarily out of work at a cost of $12 million to $13 million per month in tax revenue. Flood damage in Memphis alone is estimated at $320 million.

Agriculture and industry

The 12 refineries along the Mississippi River produce 15 percent of the nation’s oil and the threat of flooding could potentially shut them down or slow down oil production which could further impact gas prices says one media report.

Memphis is a transportation and distribution hub explains Student Minister Anthony Muhammad, representative of the Nation of Islam in the city. “Probably what they’re not telling us is that much of that has been halted because of this flood, they might not be mentioning it but that’s probably where it is,” he told The Final Call. The impact on communities has been horrific added Anthony Muhammad. “It is going to be rough.”

The opening of the Morganza Spillway diverts water from oil and chemical refineries along lower levels of the Mississippi but will flow 20 miles south toward Morgan City, a seafood and oil hub with a population of 12,000.

Each natural disaster has individual characteristics and unique levels of devastation, explains Student Minister Robert Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 45 in Houston. The 2011 wildfire season brought on by severe drought has been described as the state’s worst in 44 years. Even if and when it begins to rain, says Robert Muhammad, the underbrush and vegetation is burned so there is nothing to stop the velocity or quantity of flowing water.

“With these fires burning, these are drought related fires, meaning the vegetation was dry… now what you have is a situation when it comes to ranching, farming … the ranchers now don’t have any place for their cattle or their livestock to graze,” he told The Final Call. Ranchers will now have to bring in feed for their animals which increases the price of their goods, explained Robert Muhammad, a Ph.D candidate in urban planning and environmental policy.

The drought, fires and flooding has the increased price of wheat, gas and food. Some agricultural experts are estimating Texas may lose up to two thirds of its wheat crop this season due to the combination of drought and fire. Texas farmers produce 100 million bushels of wheat on average.

Three million acres of farmland has been flooded by the Mississippi which threatens to postpone or cancel planting of rice on 300,000 acres of land in Arkansas, which is 10 percent of the total rice acreage in the U.S. reports Reuters. Crops of cotton and corn are also being threatened.

Potential food shortages coupled with rising food prices for millions of middle and low income American families could result in increased hunger and poverty. While the Army Corps of Engineers continue efforts to divert water by opening spillways to save larger cities, once fertile farmland is being destroyed in the process.

Memphis resident Donna Muhammad has seen the damage to her city firsthand and says it is a matter of putting all the numbers together to see a bigger picture. “All along the river in Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi there’s a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of crops under water,” she told The Final Call. So much food and farmland is being destroyed, it will take years before the farmland will be productive again, she added.

Both the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and Min. Farrakhan warned the divine judgment is imminent and the great calamities will affect everyone regardless of race or creed. Min. Farrakhan has continuously urged members of the Nation of Islam and all communities to become trained in disaster preparedness.

(Look for additional coverage as these historic events develop in upcoming issues of The Final Call.)

Related News:

Louisiana Floodgate Opens, Diverting Mississippi River  (FCN, 05-14-2011)

Mississippi river floods to record levels, residents warned to evacuate  (AP, 05-06-2011)

Flooding hits Mississippi and Tennessee, state of emergency  (CCTV, 05-05-2011)

Seven states terrorized by tornadoes, over 350 dead  (PRESS TV, 04-28-2011)