Friday, August 22, 2014

Swimming's Climate Series: Floods a-comin'

Lorde-Buzzcut Season

In light of last week's horrific flooding in Detroit and Swimming's sister having to save babies from car tops in the midst of a washed out roadway I am going to address increased flooding.

First off, this is another gruesome effect of climate change (along with the excess heat I discussed in the previous post in this series). Unfortunately, we can expect more of these events to come in the future too. How are the two related? At the most basic level, heavier rainfall and rising sea levels. Per the Times: "scientists have expected this effect for decades because more water is evaporating from a warming ocean surface, and the warmer atmosphere is able to hold the excess vapor, which then falls as rain or snow."

I can only speak secondhand as I don't live in Detroit, but my very close friends and family live there and I have heard their accounts. What irks me (and has irked me since I was at the United Nations and heard the accounts of countries across the world disclose how their citizens and communities are affected by climate change) is the gross injustice of inequality. It haunts me to think that without much warning and without much help afterwards a good deal of Southeast Detroit flooded. Unlike the storms out east last year or the Colorado/California wildfires nearly every year, there was no forewarning for the inhabitants. In the midst of disaster, the law enforcement/government aid was virtually absent leaving most of the citizens of Detroit to fend for themselves. What I want to bring to attention is the fact that climate change is affecting everyone; however, the help and the ability of cities and communities to deal with it is starkly different. Wealthy areas (like both coasts) have the city funding to send police and aid to help people and businesses even before disasters strike. What about the people in the midwest? They are also being affected, but how do those citizens that make up the heart of America get aid when places like Detroit can barely afford police to take care of homicides? Let's not forget about Katrina. These places house some of the poorest communities and these citizens cannot afford to simply uproot their lives. Some people have lost everything--what can be done? A lot in my opinion. Below are some links. I think first educating the masses on the science and the cause is a must. Secondly, preparing communities to deal with weather-related issues and illnesses. Lastly, I think it's time that prominent members of the community (politicians, lawyers, physicians, business people) band together to address this issue with local governments. 

(1) Here is excellent overview
-Explains how the US has already changed--temperature and precipitation-wise. (Apparently the East Coast is sinking...bummer.)

(2) A gorgeous website on Climate change in the US
-Please go here and interactively explore how climate change is occurring 

(3)Specific Info on Flooding via NRDC

(4)What to do during a flood-Be Prepared!
(Copied from website)
Prepare before a flood:
During a flood:
  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Be aware that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
  • Be aware of stream, drainage channels, canyons and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings such as rain clouds or heavy rain.
During flood evacuation:
  • Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
When heading into flood weather (although avoid doing this at all costs):
  • Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas.
(5) Know the Nations Weather Flood terms (Copied from website):

Flood Watch - Flooding is possible. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flash Flood Watch - Flash flooding is possible. Be prepared to move to higher ground; listen to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Flood Warning - Flooding is occurring or will occur soon; if advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Flash Flood Warning - A flash flood is occurring; seek higher ground immediately.

(6) The dangers of driving during floods: (Copied from website)
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moving or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly.  If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof.
  • Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, rivers or creeks, particularly during threatening conditions. 
  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Do not drive around a barricade. Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Do not try to take short cuts. They may be blocked. Stick to designated evacuation routes.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

(7) From 'How to survive a flash-flood: In case you are trapped in a car' here are some great tips.
 Be very aware of your car's limitations. If you drive in water that's six inches deep or more, your car could stall or you could lose control of it. One foot of water is enough to float most cars, and two feet of rushing water can indeed carry away cars, SUVs and pick-ups.
  • Do not panic if your car becomes submerged by flood waters. Release your seat belt, roll down your window and get out of the car. If your windows won't open, let the car fill with water. Once that happens, you will be able to open the doors. Get out of the car immediately and swim to the surface. Do not stay in the car until it sinks.
  • If you are swept away in fast-moving water, try to make sure your feet are pointed downstream. 
  • If you are swept away, make every effort to direct your body over obstacles rather than under them.
  • If you can, try to avoid contact with any flood waters. The water may be contaminated with raw sewage, oil or gasoline, and may also be charged with electricity from down power lines. 
(8) What are the Health Risks?
Here's a few from the webiste
  • Drowning while driving
  • Waterborne diseases contaminating drinking water
  • Sewage back-up in plumbing or basements
  • Bacteria, sewage, and other contaminants in waterways:
  • Mold and dangerous indoor air quality    

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