Monday, 28 December 2015

Flood risk in Louisiana

An eye-grabbing story by Mark Schleifstein appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on 25 December 2015.

Rain in a number of parts of the watershed of the Mississippi river has been significantly above average for this time of year (in some places, 500%-600% greater than normal for this time of year).  The extra rain may lead to flooding in parts of Louisiana by about 19 January.  One region likely to be affected is the rural area near Angola State Prison.  Another is New Orleans: the flood level for the Army Corps of Engineers' Carrolton Gauge is 17 feet.  It is currently at 12.1 feet and rising.  Some of the measures open to the Corps to reduce the danger for New Orleans will raise the risk for Morgan City and the Atchafalaya Floodway.

Map showing all 13 RFCs
Image from here

If you're concerned about the risk of flooding, there are some steps you can take to prepare.  It's prudent to prepare an emergency bag.  I've talked about these in other disaster preparedness posts, but to recap: a good emergency kit should contain
  • Portable radio with spare batteries
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • First Aid kit
  • A copy of your emergency plan
  • Bottled water
  • Enough non-perishable food for three days
  • Rubber gloves
  • Food and special requirements for pets
If an emergency does occur, you should also add:
  • Important documents such as passports, birth certificates and insurance papers
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Strong boots or shoes
  • Medications and prescriptions
The International Civil Defence Organization also recommends including details of your vaccination history and blood type (you may want to generate a medical identification card with these details).

In responding to flood danger itself, the Victorian State Emergency Service gives advises -
  • Stay Informed – monitor local conditions and be aware of the situation
  • Never drive, walk or ride through floodwater
  • Floodwater is toxic – never play or swim in floodwater
  • If you are likely to become isolated, make sure that you have enough food, water, medication and pet food, and be aware that you may need to live without power, water and sewerage
  • Raise belongings by placing them on tables, beds and benches, or move them to higher ground
  • Block toilets, household drains, sinks and plugs to stop sewerage backflow
In addition, the International Civil Defence Organization advises -
  • Switch off electricity, gas and central heating.
  • Implement the measures planned for the immediate protection of people and the environment (if possible untie and set free animals from stables and other such buildings).
  • Do not cross flooded areas on foot or in a vehicle. If necessary secure yourself by holding onto ropes or cables.
  • Collaborate with public safety bodies and the services helping the homeless.
In addition, you might like to pass this post on to people in the area who you think should be aware of flood risk.

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