Wednesday, June 11, 2008

There Goes the Lake

It's hard to imagine something as large as a lake disappearing, though of course it happens. News reports say Lake Delton, a manmade lake in Wisconsin, was itching to escape its banks in the wake of intense rains recently -- which came on top of weeks of rain in Wisconsin. So it dug itself a new channel, and emptied into the Wisconsin River on Monday.

When I heard about the draining of Lake Delton I thought about the short time we spent tooling around on it last summer on a Wisconsin Duck (see August 20, 2007, though I didn't provide a lot of details then). It seemed like a stable enough lake then. Not the largest I've ever been on, but the thought of 600 million gallons of water draining away is a little unsettling. I suppose the state of Wisconsin will refill it. After all, it's a manmade lake, and presumably can be re-made.

Other news reports are detailing the floods in the Midwest and the misery they're causing. The rains have been heavy around here, and seemingly come every other day, but fortunately there's been no nearby flooding yet.

The reports also got me to thinking about that journalistic shorthand, "the Midwest." Back when I edited a magazine called Midwest Real Estate News, we defined the region as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. Seems like a reasonable definition, considering historic and common usage. Using my handy Almanac -- still better than the Internet, sometimes -- I added up the total square milage of those 10 states, and it comes out to about 608,000 square miles, or 1.57 million square kilometers.

Some comparisons? Put together, the UK, France and Germany total about 439,000 square miles (1.13 million square kilometers); and the Midwest total is only a shade smaller than Algeria, or a little larger than Greenland. Geographic size might not be that important, strictly speaking. Still, there's some comfort in knowing that while the darts of bad weather may have been hitting the Midwest lately, it's a pretty large dart board.

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