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Apr 13, 2019

Flood thy neighbor

Co-produced with PRX Logo

This episode originally was broadcast Sept. 1, 2018.

Some people who live along the Mississippi River are willing to do anything to keep their homes and farms safe from flooding – even if it means inundating their own neighbors. This week, we team up with ProPublica to investigate how rising waters have set off a race to build the highest levee. We meet two farmers, one who’s willing to break the rules to protect his farm and the other who thinks that makes her farm more vulnerable. We explore the science behind levees and learn why policymakers sometimes ignore it.

We then tell the story of the tiny town of Pinhook, Missouri. In 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers blew up a levee to save local farms. But in doing so, it intentionally flooded a small African American town.

We end with a visit to Hannibal, Missouri, a town which for decades flooded on a regular basis. The town is now doing what scientists consider best practice: demolishing low-lying neighborhoods so the river has a place to go during floods.

Read: There was a plan to save this city from flooding. But when the rains came, so did hesitance.

Flood thy neighbor: Who stays dry and who decides?

Watch: Videos of the flood model described in the show

Explore: See how the Army Corps has shown that levees on the Illinois side of the river are making floods worse for those around them



Today's show was produced in collaboration with ProPublica.

Produced by Patrick Michels and Katharine Mieszkowski. Edited by Taki Telonidis.

Thanks to Lisa Song, Al Shaw, Alexandra Zayas, Katie Campbell and Ranjani Chakraborty at ProPublica.

Thanks also to the State Historical Society of Missouri and to Todd Lawrence and Elaine Lawless.

Thanks to Lori Stern and Phoebe Petrovic for research assistance.

Our production manager is Najib Aminy. Original score and sound design by Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, who had help from Kaitlin Benz and Katherine Rae Mondo.

Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.