Living in the Albemarle region has innumerable blessings. As Goldilocks would say, it’s “… not too hot, not too cold.”
We usually escape the extreme weather faced by many places in the world. The hurricanes of my childhood were worse than the ones we have endured in recent years. Storms named Hazel, Donna, and Ash Wednesday stand out in my memory.
The National Weather Service has described the flooding taking place in Colorado over the last two weeks as being of Biblical, indescribable proportions. The airlift being conducted is the largest since Hurricane Katrina. The media has highlighted the number of deaths, people still missing, the total of survivors being air-lifted to safety, the horrific property loss, and the emotional and monetary cost.
Human capabilities are dwarfed by the power of natural disasters and their aftermath. They make us feel powerless. History proves our helplessness in such times.
There are five main types of floods. The Areal variety happens when rain falls at such a rapid rate that the water cannot run off quickly enough. Sometimes a series of storms causes the disaster, or rain falling on areas with impermeable surfaces like concrete or frozen earth. Flash floods often result.
Riverine floods are caused when large rivers with drainage areas have obstructions such as landslides, ice, or debris. Large dams built by beavers can also cause flooding in low areas.
Estuarine and coastal flooding are caused by a combination of rising tide and low barometric pressure. Conditions created by storms at sea, tsunamis, and storm surges create these types of floods.
Urban flooding happens when heavy rainfall is too much for the drainage system of a populated area. Catastrophic flooding is the result of an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, or a dam collapsing.
The effects of flooding can include damage to buildings, bridges, roads, and canals. Loss of electric power can stop water treatment plants from operating which results in waterborne diseases.
Often the toll of diseases like typhoid and cholera are worse than the flood itself. Food shortages are brought on by bad harvests after the tragedy.
The effects of flooding are long lasting and costly.
China was the scene of the five most deadly floods in history, which occurred in 1931 (2.5-3.5 million dead), 1887 (2 million dead), 1938 (5-7 hundred thousand dead), 1975 (231,000 dead), and 1935 (145,000 dead).
In 1928 California experienced the 110th worst flood on record when the St. Francis Dam failed.
The famous Johnstown, Penn., flood occurred in 1889 when the South Fork Dam collapsed after several days of heavy rain. The dam was 14 miles upstream from the town and had been built to form a lake for vacationing millionaires like Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. Welsh and Germans coal mining immigrants were the victims of the mishap.
Floods give us a new level of understanding and compassion for victims of natural disaster in our world.