First There’s the Flood

Aug. 16, 2016

Whenever there’s a devastating flood, like the one Louisiana is experiencing now, the media tends to focus—as it should—on the evacuation and rescue efforts, on the deaths or injuries, and eventually on the property damage involved. These are all immediate and vital concerns for the area that’s affected. Something that usually gets less attention is the cleanup effort, and the short- and long-term risks from large volumes of water reaching places where water was never expected to be.

This ABC News story does cover some of the things people in the area are likely to face and risks they should be aware of. Anyone with an open wound that’s been exposed to flood waters, for example, should get a tetanus shot. Mold and other allergens might exacerbate problems like asthma as residents return to their once-flooded homes. And—something many of us are not likely to think of—animals are affected by the flood, too, and will end up in unexpected places after their habitat is disrupted; look for snakes in the sofa.

Often the things we learn from the aftermath lead to long-term improvements. After Hurricane Sandy, which among its many other effects knocked out the New York City subway system for several days, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority made a number of changes. For example, inundation with corrosive saltwater damaged much of the subway’s electrical equipment; when replacing it, MTA elevated it to a higher level to make it less likely to be affected by floodwaters.

This article from Stormwater looks at the 2013 flooding in Colorado from a perspective a year in the future and offers nine “lessons learned”—things local authorities and residents wished they had known, and things they can do to avoid similar problems during the next big flood. Among them: how to use social media to alert people to what’s happening, and the need to maintain drainage ditches and to understand exactly where they will convey the excess water.

If you’ve lived or worked in an area that has seen heavy flooding, share your experience in the comments. What were the most difficult effects to recover from in the long run? What advice do you have for those who may be going through this for the first time?

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines. 

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