News Q&A: Missouri River flood risk to continue for months
Flooding in Missouri submerges houses, farmland OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The surging Missouri River is being filled with more than twice the normal amount of water from an upstream reservoir so more flooding is likely, and the heavy releases may continue for months. The flooding could be particularly bad in communities that sit behind levees that were damaged by massive flooding in March that primarily affected smaller communities and farms along the river in the four states downstream of the dams.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the amount of water being released from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at 75,000 cubic feet (2,124 cubic meters) per second for at least a month because of all the recent rain. That’s about 85 percent of the amount of water in an Olympic size swimming pool.”The 75,000 (cubic feet) level is going to be having water above the banks at a number of places for a very long time,” said John Remus, who oversees water management for the reservoirs along the river. „Those areas that have been flooded will continue to be flooded to some degree.”The Corps will reassess the amount of water being released into the river, and if there hasn’t been significantly more rain than expected the amount could be reduced this summer. But it is still likely to remain above average into the fall.Some answers to common questions about the ongoing flooding:_WHY ARE THE RELEASES HAPPENING?During the March flooding that caused at least $3 billion in damage in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, the Corps held back some water in the upstream dams after heavy rains and snow melt in Plains states caused the flooding.But holding back that water essentially filled up two of the reservoirs — Fort Randall in South Dakota and Oahe, which also is in South Dakota but stretches into North Dakota. Combined with spring rains and melting snow, that forced higher releases from the dams.Much of the flooding this spring was caused by heavy rains that fell downstream of the dams, but plenty of water has been flowing into the river upstream.The Corps predicts that 50 million acre-feet of water will flow through the reservoirs along the Missouri River this year. That would be the second-highest total ever behind only the 61 million acre-feet seen during the massive flooding in 2011._WILL FLOODING CONTINUE? More flooding is likely in places protected by levees that were damaged in March because few have been repaired.Levee repairs have been hindered by the extent of the damage and lingering floodwaters. Keeping the river level high will continue to make it difficult to reach some levees, and more damage may be caused.”You’re going to see continuing problems and recurring problems,” Remus said.Because of the additional flooding that is likely, Remus said the repair schedule for those levees will be affected.”Levees are saturated and the prolonged water against them is dangerous,” said Tom Waters, chairman of the Missouri Levee and Drainage District Association. „The system is overwhelmed with little hope in site. Even after the crest passes the water is remaining high. The prolonged high water will also delay repairs to breached levees. The result will likely be more flooding in many areas again next spring.”_WHAT DO COMMUNITIES THINK?Communities sitting behind busted levees and battling the latest deluge are alarmed.In northwest Missouri, Holt County emergency management director Tom Bullock said every levee in the county, except one, has multiple breaches. When the worst flooding happened in March, about 95,000 acres (38,446 hectares) were underwater. But with so many levees busted, water can flow in through the breaches any time water levels rise. Currently, about 80,000 acres (32,376 hectares) are flooded, preventing farmers from planting a 2019 crop.”They don’t leave any room in the pool up there to hold anything so it looks like 2011 all over again,” Bullock said. „The water isn’t going down enough for us to get any levee repairs done. We will be flooded all summer.”In Jefferson City, Missouri, floodwater had filled the basement of the Turkey Creek Golf Center with about 4 feet (1.22 meters) of water. Turkey Creek owner Danny Baumgartner told the Jefferson City News-Tribune that he’s had about a dozen people at times helping to sandbag. He said water coming down the Missouri River from the dam releases „just threw a lot of water on us” but added „you just battle through it.”___WHAT HAPPENED IN 2011? Upstream runoff this year is second only to 2011, when the corps released massive amounts of water from reservoirs that had filled to overflowing.The resulting torrent easily overmatched earthen levees along the river in Iowa and Missouri, tearing football field-sized holes in berms protecting thousands of acres of prime farmland and forcing the closure of heavily-traveled bridges and roads.Government officials in downriver states accused the agency of caring more about protecting river navigation and recreation at the northern reservoirs than controlling flooding further south.Many people who live along the river generally contend that the water levels in the upstream reservoirs should be kept low so they can handle large influxes of runoff. Upstream, boating and fishing enthusiasts want higher levels in the reservoir to support recreation. Likewise, barge owners want to make sure the water level is high enough that water can be released through the summer and fall to keep their vessels afloat._Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Kansas City, Missouri.
•Severe flooding hits several states BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Rush hour flash flooding and possible tornadoes that hit the Baton Rouge area Thursday morning were blamed for one death — a man who died after being rescued from a car on a flooded street — as well as numerous closed roads, stalled vehicles and a delay in the start of the final day of Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session.Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said some areas of East Baton Rouge Parish received 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain early Thursday. And roughly 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) fell in less than an hour during rush hour.She opened a morning news conference with a moment of silence for an unidentified victim whose death was attributed to the weather. Fire Chief Ed Smith said emergency medical workers were unable to save the life of the man after he was removed from a car in a flooded area. No other details were immediately available.News outlets reported that wind damage in the Central community of East Baton Rouge Parish and in the city limits of Baton Rouge were caused by possible tornadoes. Another possible tornado was reported in the Convent area of St. James Parish. And parts of the New Orleans area were under a tornado warning as a possible twister moved over the area shortly after noon.New Orleans officials said anywhere from 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 centimeters) of rain was expected in the New Orleans area through Friday, with the greatest rain threat expected Thursday. Flooded streets made it difficult for state lawmakers to get to the Capitol to put final touches on the state’s $30 billion operating budget for 2019-20120. Both the House and Senate convened late. They faced a 6 p.m. deadline for ending the 60-day session.
Google is adding tools to Google Maps and search to help you survive a natural disaster.When a hurricane, flood or earthquake affects your area, you may want to get of town as quickly as possible. Google is launching a new navigation warning system as part of Google Maps to keep you informed and safe during such a crisis. Google Maps can help you trace a hurricane’s path. Google is not in the weather business, per se; it is tapping into such sources as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Japan Meteorological Agency (for hurricanes) and the U.S. Geological Survey (for earthquakes).Tech to the rescue: Tornado outbreaks reminder to make smartphones disaster-readyHere’s how the company breaks down the coming features:Hurricanes Leading up the storm, Google will display a crisis notification card if you are in or near an affected area. You’ll see a hurricane forecast cone that shows the predicted trajectory of the storm, accompanied by information of when it is likely to hit. Earthquakes If an earthquake strikes, you can tap on an information card to summon a color-coded “shakemap,” which helps you visualize the epicenter and magnitude of the quake in surrounding areas.
Google says the hurricane forecast cones and earthquake shake maps will begin rolling out on iOS, Android, desktop computers and the mobile web during the coming weeks.
Flood forecast visualizations are also coming soon, but initially only in India, where Google says more than 20% of global flood-related fatalities occur. Such forecasts start in Patna, then expand to the Ganges and Brahmaputra regions on Android, desktop, and on the mobile web. Google Maps product manager Hannah Stulberg says the river-level data used in the flooding forecasts comes from the Central Water Commission, where it is then fed into Google’s own machine learning models.Google Doodle: Google launches a Pride doodle, and it’s getting lots of love on the internet During such chaos, you can share your location with family and friends and within Google Maps turn on a traffic layer to visualize suspected road closures. You can also report such closures to others and through a crisis information card, tap on a share button to keep loved ones informed and to direct them in turn to Google Maps where they, too, can view a summary, get emergency contact information, and so on.During an actual or impending storm, people seek information from a variety of sources, including national and local news, and any number of weather apps. „What we heard from users, Stulberg says, „is they want to be able to see the best and most reliable information in that map context.”A person in the midst of a weather crisis will obviously need connectivity to keep abreast of the situation via Google Maps.Over time, Google plans to expand coverage to address tornadoes, monsoons and other crises.Earlier this week, rival Apple announced catch-up features for its own Apple Maps products, including a Look Around feature that resembles Google Maps’ Street View.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow @edbaig on TwitterThis article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Earthquake, flood, hurricane: Google Maps adds tools to help you navigate a crisis
A chilling Australian policy paper outlining a Doomsday scenario for humans if we don’t start dealing with climate change suggests that by 2050 we could see irreversible damage to global climate systems resulting in a world of chaos where political panic is the norm and we are on a path facing the end of civilization. The worst thing about it, say experts, is that it’s actually a fairly calm and rational look at just how bad things could get — and how quickly — if humans don’t stop emitting greenhouse gases into the environment.The scenarios „don’t seem that far-fetched to me. I don’t think there’s anything too crazy about them,” said Adam Sobel, a professor of applies physics and mathematics at Columbia University in New York City who studies atmospheric and climate dynamics. The paper was written by an independent think-tank in Australia called Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration. It offer a scenario for 2050 in a world where humans didn’t lower carbon emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising.Last year’s United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said the world’s nations must quickly reduce fossil fuel use to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celcius. The transitions, the report said, must start now and be well underway in the next 20 years. The Australian report imagines a world where that didn’t happen and global temperatures warmed by 3 degrees Celcius or even more. That’s a rise of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. While that may not seem like a lot, on a worldwide scale it is expected to result in massive, catastrophic shifts to the weather, agriculture and even the habitability of some areas. „Three degrees Celcius by 2100 is a pretty middle-of-the-road estimate. It’s not extreme and it’s totally believable,” if serious action isn’t taken, said Sobel.The writers say their scenario offers a „glimpse into a world of ‘outright chaos’ on a path to the end of human civilization and modern society as we have known it, in which the challenges of global security are simply overwhelming and political panic becomes the norm.”Their scenario follows this outline:This aerial photo shows flooding along the Arkansas River in Pine Bluff, Ark., Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The economically struggling Arkansas city in the midst of a revitalization plan continued flooding Tuesday as the Arkansas River crested its banks, but local officials said even after the waters recede, the community’s resilience will bolster recovery.2050 In the years leading up to 2050, policy-makers fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The case for the global climate-emergency mobilization necessary to keep temperatures from rising is „politely ignored.” Global greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2030 and begin to fall due to a drop in fossil fuel use but damage has been done and warming reaches 3 degrees Celcius. By 2050, sea levels have risen 1.6 feet and are projected to increase by as much as 10 feet by 2100. Globally, 55% of the population lives in areas subject to more than 20 days of lethal heat a year, beyond the human threshold of survivability. North America suffers from devastating weather extremes including wildfires, heatwaves, droughts and flooding. China’s summer monsoons fail and water in Asia’s great rivers are severely reduced from the loss of more than one-third of the Himalayan ice sheet. This fire near Santa Barbara was determined to be caused by power lines coming into contact during high winds. California’s fire season is beginning to extend year round as a result of climate change as well as housing developments that are in area indefensible by firefighters. Gov. Gavin Newsom is appropriating millions from the current budget to reassess the state’s approach to mitigating such disasters.A billion people displaced Within 30 years from today, ecosystems in coral reefs and the Amazon rainforest collapse, affecting fishing yields and rainfalls.Deadly heat conditions turn many areas unlivable, resulting in more than a billion people being displaced in West Africa, tropical South America, the Middle East and South-East Asia.Two billion people globally are affected by lack of water. Food production falls by one-fifth as droughts, heat waves, flooding and storms affect crops. Rising ocean levels make some of the world’s most populous cities uninhabitable, including Mumbai, Jakarta, Canton, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Lagos, Bangkok and Manilla. Billions of people must be relocated. This leads to fights over land, resources and water and potentially to war and occupations. All too possible The scenarios given in the paper are all too likely, say experts. Jonathan Patz is a physician and director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s been studying the health effects of global warming for two decades.”There are studies showing a doubling of the number of people at risk for hunger by mid-century because of droughts. And a wider prevalence of infectious diseases like malaria, Dengue and the Zika virus. It could result in forced migrations and massive refugee problems,” he said. He noted that just before the Syrian civil war began in 2011, one of the area’s most severe droughts on record pushed rural to urban migration rates to four times normal and resulted in food riots. We’re already getting a taste of what’s to come, said David Doniger who directs the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental non-profit based in New York City. He cited this year’s extreme weather that’s resulting in historic flooding in the Midwest, as well as last year’s giant wildfires and severe storms nationwide. Imagine that on a global scale, he says.This past December, a record-shattering heat wave in Australia caused temperatures to soar above 120 degrees in some spots. “All of these things are going to compound. People are going to be forced to migrate or die. All of this is going to get worse and combine in ways that worsen political tensions and create instability,” he said.The United States is not immune to any of this, said Solomon Hsiang, who studies climate change economics and directs the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley. His research has found that colder countries such as Canada and Russia may benefit from warming because they’ll have more arable land. But not the United States, which „is already too warm to be a big winner,” he said.The southeast and the Midwest will fast bigger, stronger storms and wilder weather, causing flooding, damaging businesses and homes and disrupting farming. The West will have more droughts and wildfires.Hsiang’s research shows a roughly 20% chance that conditions not unlike the Dust Bowl could be almost continuous, he said. That was a four-year period from 1935 to 1938 when a severe drought and dust storms swept from Texas to Nebraska, killing livestock and destroying crops. Dust from the storms reached as far as New York City.We have the technology The good news, say scientists, is that we have the technology to shift to a carbon-neutral energy system today.”We’re not waiting for solutions. We’re simply waiting for the political will to understand that the solutions are here. Clean energy is not a matter of waiting, it’s a matter of implementing,” said Patz.Such enormous undertakings are not unprecedented. Hsiang cites the tremendous economic shifts that helped fight World War II. „When we’ve faced real threats we’ve been willing to make these kinds of large-scale changes,” he said. The decisions we make will be ones future generations will remember us for, Hsiang said.”The same way we look back today and have pride in the things our grandparents did to defend democracy — our grandchildren are going to look back and have feelings about what we did today,” he said.”What those feelings are,” he said, „will depend on what we decide to do.”This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: End of civilization: climate change apocalypse could start by 2050 if we don’t act, report warns