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Understanding Flood Preparation And Their Reasons

I came across a news article about the urgent evacuation of over 10,000 people from communities below two failing dams in central Michigan. Flooding seems to be in the news often, and the question of How To Prepare For A Flood entered my mind.

Here are the top 7 preparation tips:

1. Know where you live

2. Have a bug-out bag

3. Have a crisis plan

4. Be prepared to get out

5. Do not get out unless you really have to 

6. Drive smart. Turn around and don’t drown

7. Always have an alternative plan and route

how to prepare for a flood

Back to that Michigan crisis: those two collapsed dams let loose billions of gallons of water from two large lakes, sending them hurtling downstream in a powerful rush of destruction. Water ripped buildings off their foundations, smashed and twisted roads and bridges, damaged or destroyed an estimated 2,500 properties, and submerged downtown Midland a city of 40,000 people, under over 9 feet of water.

The urgent evacuation of 10,000 people from communities below those two failing dams prevented the loss of life.

There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States. Among them, more than 15,000 are considered high-hazard dams, meaning they’re close enough to populated areas that life or property could be threatened if they fail.

Of those high-hazard dams, more than 2,000 have been so poorly maintained they’re in an unsatisfactory condition.

Regarding Emergency Preparedness, knowing where you live is always a good idea.

And it might be better to know how to prepare for a flood and when you have to bug out or stay put.

Causes and Effects of Flooding

Over the years, we have seen a myriad of catastrophic events all over the globe. The planet has become a playground for the forces of nature, and they certainly haven’t shied away from showing us how powerless we are. However, among all the disasters, none is as scary as flooding.

Floods are the most recurring natural disasters on Earth. They are a significant concern for many sectors, ranging from agriculture to public health.

Nobody is safe.

Flooding definition: Floods occur when water overflows and completely submerges, usually dry land, with no capacity to channel the water in a non-destructive manner effectively. Floods are unpredictable once they start. Some take place in a matter of minutes, while others develop slowly and may go on for up to a week.

Experts in the field of hydrology study the phenomenon as a discipline.

Floods have been around for the longest time. They have dotted our history and claimed more lives than can be counted. They are even incorporated into some of our religions and myths. A good example is a great flood in the Bible at the time of Noah.

Even the Good Book acknowledges that flooding is a sure tool of destruction.

As such, it would be correct to say that floods have always been here and aren’t planning on leaving us anytime soon. The topic causes a lot of anxiety, but it is only prudent to tackle and discuss the causes and hazards of flooding.

Let’s get right to it.

Types and Causes of Floods

Before we go into anything else, it is wise to know about the different types of flooding. Not all floods are equal. This is because each type has different characteristics, causes, and effects. To be safe, you must first know what type of floods you are dealing with.

You can rule out one type of flooding, but you can never rule out all types of flooding. Anywhere that usually rains, flooding can occur. Naturally, when water pours onto the ground, it is absorbed by the soil. Flooding occurs when this fails to happen.

The soil may refuse to take up water for several reasons. It may be that the ground is frozen. In that case, the water slides off the surface like droplets on a polished mirror.

The surface may also be completely impervious to water. This is mainly the case in concrete or our roads, which are made of asphalt. Due to their nature, these materials do not allow water to seep through.

The last reason that may cause ground surfaces not to take up water is that they cannot take any more. This condition is known as saturation. It happens when the soil has reached capacity and has no more air space to hold water.

The slope of the land is also a tell-tale sign of how big a risk of flooding that area faces. This is because if the soil cannot absorb water at the same rate that it is falling, we have a problem. Land with a tilted angle allows this water to run off. If it piles up and the ground can’t take it… You guessed it – floods.

These are the categories of floods:

Over-bank Flooding

Most people think about this type of flooding when they hear the word. It is also the most common. You may have seen it in the news or heard about it locally.

It occurs when water fills a river beyond its capacity, causing it to break its banks and overflow. This increase in the volume of water can be caused by a heavy downpour or rapidly thawing ice.

If the area affected by overbank flooding is widespread and has no slope, the water will move across it slowly but surely and spread in all directions. One of its defining characteristics is that it takes a mighty long time to dissipate – we’re talking days or weeks.

Its saving grace is that it takes time to build up, providing a window of opportunity for residents in the area to be warned.

Flash Floods

This flooding takes a relatively short time to gather speed and is one of the most menacing. It takes shape on an average of six hours from when it is initiated by fast-moving water.

According to research, the water moves at around ten feet per second. Now, do not let this fool you. That is a highly dangerous speed for water, and trust me when I say that you do not want to be caught in the middle of a flash flood.

Water moving at that speed can easily move boulders weighing over two hundred pounds. It can also smash you against stationary objects and walls. The huge amount of debris from flash floods is another factor that elevates the already significant threat these floods pose.

Ice Jam Flooding

In cold regions, bodies of ice form dams of water. This happens when ice pushes against each other, forming a wall that stops water from flowing. This water piles up and creates a small lake.

Eventually, the ice collapses, releasing the held-up water, which rushes onto the land below. The water causes an effect similar to flash flooding but with the added danger of floating chunks of ice, which can be fatal.

Coastal Flooding

This flooding causes many people in coastal lines worldwide to have sleepless nights. As the name suggests, it occurs along shorelines. Its main causative agent is storms that occur in the ocean.

You see, natural disasters in the ocean give rise to phenomena such as hurricanes, storms, and tsunamis. These, in turn, are almost always accompanied by flooding, according to flooding statistics.

As long as the eye of the storm is in the deep sea, there is little to worry about, but when it moves toward land, it brings waves that can cause incalculable damage.

The waves assault the beaches relentlessly and destroy everything that stands in their way. People are advised to get to higher ground immediately after an impending coastal flood is detected.

In fact, scientists calculate that most of the destruction during hurricanes is caused by the powerful waves and flooding water, and not the fast winds. The scariest thing is that water from coastal flooding has unlimited potential for damage.

Man-made Floods

Human activities can cause flooding. The biggest contributor so far has been engineering negligence. Over time, we have seen how poorly constructed dams have given way and left us counting losses.

Interestingly, this is one of the few scenarios where we can do something. However, due to human nature, we continue to be victims of our own circumstances. Greed is our biggest undoing.

Flooding Effects

The primary effect of floods, and the most immediately felt, is the loss of lives and damage to buildings and property. Family members of people who die in floods live with the trauma for the rest of their lives and often need professional help to overcome the fear and cope with the events. It is imperative to understand how to prepare for a flood.

Damage to buildings leads to homelessness and a struggle for survival, which is one of the hardest things to bounce back from.

The disasters also damage structures and social amenities, disrupting our way of life. Floods can bring down electricity poles, effectively cutting power transmission. They also severely damage the water system by bringing up sewage. Lack of power and drinking water is as deadly a combo as they come. It takes a city straight back to the Middle Ages.

Damage to means of transport also makes things grind to a halt. With the crops damaged and the city immobilized, it becomes difficult to feed the population. It also makes becoming fatally sick a death sentence because emergency services cannot get to you on time.

The economy also takes a more long-term but sure hit. Economic hardship settles in and becomes the norm. Prices of food soar, and generally, everything inflates. The cost of rebuilding also skyrockets the country’s budget. This takes a toll on the people’s living standards, psychology, and well-being.

Flooding And Climate Change

Take what you learned today and carry it wherever you go. Understand how to prepare for a flood. It may save your life one day. It is easy just reading about it, but for some, this is their everyday reality. So, what can you and I do about it?

Climate change is alarmingly increasing global warming. Flooding statistics have established that areas with warm air experience more serious flooding since the atmosphere has a greater capacity to hold precipitation.

An increase in climate change has been declared directly responsible for an increase in the frequency of floods in Asia, Africa, and some parts of Europe.

Since we all agree that floods are devastating, let us stop the assault on our planet. It is the only one we have.

Reduce your carbon footprint.

Plant a tree.

Do something.

Back To The Michigan Flooding

The disaster in Michigan on May 19 and 20 of 2020 caused at least $175 million in damage, authorities say, and left behind two empty lake beds.

Homeowners who once watched water skiers play by their doors now look out on a soggy moonscape of sand pocked with mangled docks, half-buried pontoon boats, and clusters of tree stumps that somehow remained under the water for a century since dams built to generate hydroelectric power first flooded the forest to create those two lakes the Sanford and Wixom.

dam failure

Thousands of Americans across the country live downstream from aging dams that have fallen into disrepair. Many of those dams are privately owned.

Many no longer generate electricity. Many have not complied with laws requiring them to file emergency evacuation plans and educate the public on preparing for a flood. Many face unprecedented weather conditions from climate change, with higher waters and heavier rains.

And without a concerted effort to repair or remove the dams, experts warn that many lives could be in danger and need to know how to prepare for a flood.

As the people of Michigan clean up the damage, they face difficult questions that could presage similar discussions experts say need to occur nationwide.

According to a federal inventory, more than 90,000 dams are in the United States. Among them, more than 15,000 are considered high-hazard dams, meaning they’re close enough to populated areas that life and property could be threatened if they were to fail.

And homeowners often have no inkling of the threat. Dam owners in most states are not required to notify people if they’re in a zone that could get flooded. Mortgage lenders, who typically require homeowners to get a flood certification to determine if a property is in a flood plain, don’t have similar requirements for houses near dams.

However, people who live near dams need to start paying attention and understand where they live, especially as they’re battered with extreme weather that the designers of the dams in the 20th century never expected or saw coming.

No one knows how much it will cost to rebuild the dams, but it’s definitely going to be expensive both in money and possibly the lives of those who live near them.


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