Global Warming has indeed increased the severity of storms, inland flooding, torrential winds and winters normally kept on the Canadian side of the border. Humanity should have learned from the devastating property loss and loss of life from 2005 to present-day. While predictions of where a tornado will strike, when and where will the next earthquake will be, and which volcano will be the next Krakatau are slim at best, predicting areas of flooding is more than possible. Areas not currently in a flood plain can be the next flooded area. Just because the crest on the north side of the river has not flooded before does not guarantee that it will not ever flood in the future. If one takes into consideration the man-made elements, natural shifting, and the increasing weather pattern changes with a warmer earth, it will become apparent that more areas are and will be flood prone.
Focus on areas in your fifty mile radius. If you have been in the area for twenty years or more, you undoubtedly have noticed that certain pieces of land that never held water twenty years ago now does after rains and snow melts. One area close to me was once a natural habitat and not prone to standing water that fell victim to flooding. What changed was a four lane roadway with turn lanes built up for runoff. Below the new roadway grade are concreted shopping centers on both sides. Heavy and unusual lengthy rains flooded ground level stores on both sides. The area mentioned is not next to a waterway.
Structures that are positioned next to waterways may not have been exposed to flooding or high water in the past. The Category Five Hurricane Katrina left lasting memories of what can and does happen when storm strengths increase with the climate warming. Hurricane Sandy in the North East left lasting memories of destruction and loss of life. For those that believe that devastation won’t happen inland through the Mid-West farm belts need to reconsider.
Careful planning can save lives. By ensuring that large populations of people contained in buildings adjacent to waterways is against building codes is a must. By utilizing lessons learned from past mistakes in urban building, codes should be designed to put human life and safety above profits and low costs.
The typical large population facilities that immediately come to mind are hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, condominiums, apartment complexes, and office building. There are however many other buildings that house more than 25 people on a continued basis.
While the aesthetic view of waterways, rivers, and the greenery that often accompanies them is breathtaking, allowing structures next to them should be banned. The green approach to take into consideration, which many cities have, is to plan for the next catastrophic storm. Watershed areas utilized are a good start. What happens when the runoff area is past capacity is the leveling effect. The high side the watershed was designed to protect is now vulnerable to flooding. Pilings and levees have not worked well for coastal cities. The same will be true for structures close to waterways even those inland.
Many existing structures have been “grandfathered” through most cities and towns. Any municipality that allows new construction adjunct to waterways is not utilizing good judgment and certainty not proper planning for the future. The rising costs of property insurance and flood insurance is cost prohibitive to many, being able to obtain insurance at all in coastal areas and adjacent to waterways is also becoming difficult.
We live in an economic decline from federal disaster funds and state aid funds for what is needed just for basic infrastructure. When anyone calculates the disaster aid needed to combat increased losses of life and property, the cost saving proactive approach becomes necessary for financial survival.
The next time media depicts cost saving, job creating construction adjacent to waterways, know that the savings and job creation are transparent. Enterprises previously profitable adjacent to waterways will face cost constraints through the increasing flood insurance, liability insurance and property insurance.
Through proper planning, compliant building codes, enforcement of compliant building codes, and keeping construction away from waterways is the key to future success, by avoiding property loss and loss of life.
Help your area be forward-looking, utilizing proactive approaches that will stand the test of time and the consequences of global warming.