News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 13, 2008

Editor's Note: Covering the flood shifts to recovery

As natural disasters go, flooding can have a long and nasty legacy. Even when the waters have receded and raging creeks and rivers are passive once again within their banks, hidden dangers — and damages — persist.

Assessing those dangers and damages to both public and private property is a major concern now, and will be for days and weeks to come. The imminent threat of severe flooding — at least for now — has subsided, but misery remains.

It will take time and patience to get a clear snapshot of the “big picture.” Only then will communities affected by the flood begin to get a solid grasp on their situations.

Important questions must be answered. What is the damage to public and private infrastructure, and what will it take to repair or replace it? For those who had insurance, will it cover their property losses? For those who had no or inadequate insurance, what now? What is the environmental impact of pollutants that escaped into the terrain during the flood? What will happen to damaged or destroyed vehicles? Will there be serious health effects from mold or bugs in structures and what is the best method to handle them? What immediate and long-term impact will the damage and destruction of homes and apartment dwellings have on the local housing market? Or on the property tax base? How hard is it to hire a contractor right now to make repairs, simple or complex?

And that’s just a start. There’s clearly lots to consider as the Wabash Valley enters the next phase of recovery.

As journalists, we are beginning to ask these questions — and many others — as we seek answers to residents’ most pressing concerns and help them gain information needed to resolve flood-related problems. It is a major challenge and we are anxious to begin addressing some of these critical issues.

(Readers will see the first results of our efforts Sunday when we publish a story by veteran reporter Sue Loughlin on facts and fallacies concerning flood insurance.)

As readers, you can help by letting us know your questions and concerns, or even by helping us answer those questions by giving us direction on obtaining accurate information.

Contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of this column, or send a postal note to me at the Tribune-Star, P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. Your input and feedback is eagerly anticipated and much appreciated.

• Fans of the comic strip Doonesbury that appears Monday through Saturday on the Opinion page and on Sundays in our stand-alone color comics section, know that author Garry Trudeau has been on an extended vacation since early spring. We have been publishing what his syndicate calls “Flashbacks” during his break.

I’m pleased to tell you that Trudeau’s vacation has ended new strips will begin appearing on Monday.

Thanks to faithful Doonesbury readers for your patience. I think you’ll find Trudeau’s new work has been worth the wait.

• Tribune-Star readers have undoubtedly noticed a new byline in our newspages in recent weeks. DeAntae Prince, a native of the Chicago area, is serving a summer internship here, and we are thrilled to have him with us.

DeAntae will be a senior this fall at Indiana University-Bloomington, where he is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in I.U.’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. He was selected one of 10 students from Indiana journalism schools this past spring to receive a Pulliam Internship through the Hoosier State Press Association.

Upon his selection by a statewide committee of editors and publishers, DeAntae was placed at the Tribune-Star and began his internship in mid-May.

He will be with us through the end of July.

Editor Max Jones can be reached at (812) 231-4336, or by e-mail at