Force of Floods


STUDENTS: Module 4: Forces in the Environment

Flood icon. Force of Floods Examines the power of flood waters and illustrates the importance of knowing the potential risks in an area.

Of all natural disasters floods are the most costly in terms of human hardship and economic loss. Most communities in the United States do experience some kind of flooding. In the United States the floods of 1889 (Johnstown), 1927 (Mississippi River), 1976 (Big Thompson River near Photo: Flood of '93,Denver), 1993 (Mississippi River), and 1997 (Western Tributary System of the Mississippi River) are well known and documented disasters. Globally the most significant flood in terms of loss of human life is the Huang He River in China where approximately 3.7 million people were killed in 1931. In 1939 the same river flooded again, killing 500,000 people. In 1970 a cyclone and a seismic wave in the Bay of Bengal killed 266,000 people. These serve as terrible reminders that floods may be devastating.
The most common types of floods are:
1. Coastal Flood – May be brought on by hurricanes and tropical storms, seismic waves or tsunamis, or astronomically driven high flood tides.
2. Flash Flood – This is the most dangerous of flooding situations because this type of flood comes as a surprise. It generally occurs after a heavy rain and the natural or municipal drainage system is overwhelmed. The failure of a dam is another type of flash flood.
3. Urban Flood – The concrete and asphalt sprawl of a city reduces drainage areas. Water has nowhere to go after a heavy rain.
4. River Flood – Flooding along rivers is a natural event. The encroachment of urban and suburban development in the floodplains of rivers turns a natural event into a natural disaster.
Floodwaters can be extremely dangerous. The force of six inches of swiftly moving water can knock people off their feet. Flash floods move at very fast speeds and can roll boulders, tear out trees, destroy buildings, and wipe out bridges. Cars can be swept away in just 2 feet of water.Photo: Rescue team pulls horse from water.



It is clear that the government cannot continue to subsidize disaster relief and recovery. It is important for citizens to recognize risks associated with floods and plan and prepare wisely. Further research is necessary in order to gain a better understanding of climate and global change. Hopefully, new and better technologies will evolve to help us with our predictive abilities to recognize when the water is on the rise.
Photo: Flood aftermath: Dangerous debris. Photo: Flooded cars.
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