One of my favorite authors, Jenny Trout, ended up having a more exciting writer's retreat than she bargained for when intense rains led to extensive flash flooding, followed by erosion and sinkholes, in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. Tragically, that flooding killed a child when the basement he was sleeping in collapsed.
A couple weeks back, Baalbek, Lebanon was struck by some pretty extreme flash flooding: when you look at this video, your jaw will hit the nearest floor.
Experts say the immense rains — some spawned by tropical ocean waters, others by once-routine thunderstorms — are the product of long-rising air temperatures and an increase in the sheer size of the storms. Because warmer air can hold more water, large storms are dropping far more rain at a faster clip.
“Things are definitely getting more extreme,” said Andreas Prein, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “You just have to look at the records. All areas of the continental U.S. have seen increases in peak rainfall rates in the past 50 years. . . . And there is a chance that we are underestimating the risk, actually.”
So, what to do about all of this mayhem? Knowing the risks means you have a better chance of survival. Citizens of the Keweenaw Peninsula are now painfully aware that their region is underlain by sinkhole-prone karst. We've talked about karst and what happens when you get it too wet a few times here at Rosetta Stones: you can read up on it here and here. Those articles mostly talk about Florida sinkholes, but the principles apply worldwide, and the first article includes many excellent suggestions on how to handle the karst below.
Are you living in an area at risk from sinkholes? You can find out by visiting your country or state's local geological survey page. Your local emergency management agencies probably have information they can provide you with. And if you're in the United States, you can see a karst map here.
As for surviving flash floods, you can find a compilation of good information here in this post, where I distilled all the resources I could find on dealing with sudden flooding. There's information on surviving on foot and in a car. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information on what to do if your house is caught in a flash flood. But LifeHacker has some good ideas on what to do in order to prepare for the possibility that your home will find itself underwater:
Awareness and prevention is always going to be your best chance of survival. Flash flooding can occur without obvious visual cues like clouds and heavy rain, so sign up for local weather alerts, and be sure to check local forecasts if weather starts to look a little questionable. A flood “watch” means flooding is possible in your area. A flood “warning” means flooding is already occurring and you should be ready to evacuate if things get bad. It also helps to know what spots are most likely to flood in your area. Take note of canyons, drainage channels, streambeds, and other low locations. Flood insurance is also a good idea if you live in areas prone to flash flooding. Just make sure you acquire it sooner rather than later as it takes 30 days for flood insurance to kick in.
If floods are hitting your area, be sure to check with your local and state emergency management agencies for information, and follow their instructions.
Stay safe, my friends!