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article imageImpact of heavy rains and flooding continues to grow in Midwest

By Karen Graham     May 5, 2017 in Environment
Heavy rains in parts of Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have brought many rivers to record levels, causing at least 20 deaths and forcing hundreds to flee their homes as levees break. More levees are now at risk as the rains continue.
On May 4, river levels in many parts of the Midwest were at record or near-record levels, but the crisis is not over. From April 29 to May 1, a very volatile weather system spawned heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, and tornadoes across the region, forcing hundreds of families from their homes and causing the deaths of at least 20 people, according to Gizmodo.
In rural parts of eastern Missouri and northeast Arkansas, two levees burst early Wednesday, while another levee seems to be holding its own, although it is rain-soaked, as are the tens of thousands of sandbags holding back the water in areas near suburban St. Louis.
In Pocahontas, Arkansas, a city of 6,500 people, the nearby swollen Black River breached the local levee system, spreading out over a six-mile area, triggering an emergency in the town, causing emergency responders to rescue people from flooded homes and cars, reports Climate Central.
John Gardner
It's not over, yet
All that water, and it is one heck of a lot, has to eventually go somewhere. The floodwater is moving downstream, threatening areas along the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, including Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Illinois. Major flooding is now occurring along the Missouri River in eastern Missouri and the Mississippi River in Missouri and Illinois.
And adding insult to injury, the floodwaters are expected to reach as high as 48 feet (15 meters) at Cape Girardeau by Saturday, an unwanted new record. Adding to the insult is the warnings over raw sewage, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in the floodwaters, not to mention the displaced wildlife that could also pose a threat to people.
Present-day levees are at risk because of increased rainfall
The Pocahontas flood is “symptomatic of the problem we face that there are so many communities across the country that are not prepared for these massive rain events,” Gerry Galloway, a leading authority on levees and water management at the University of Maryland, said.
Jay Tighe
Nicholas Pinter, a University of California, Davis, professor of geology and expert in flood risks is also concerned about the present state of levee systems in areas prone to flooding, saying that in the historical context, levees were built with the idea that if we “build it, they will come." But many of those levees were built decades ago, prior to the increase in development in those areas.
As long as the climate continues to warm, we will be seeing more extreme rainfall events and more frequent flooding events. In the recent past, we have seen these events happen in Louisiana and California, as well as the flooding going on in Canada this week. The impacts from these devastating floods not only affects homeowners but transportation, commerce and the livelihoods of thousands of businesses.
More about Midwest, Flooding, Levees, flood insurance, Global warming
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