Thursday, January 23, 2020
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Floods in Ellicott City, Baton Rouge, St. Louis

Flooding across the country in recent weeks has displaced tens of thousands of people, killed a few, and left others struggling to recover their lives as well. Floodwaters first came to Ellicott City, Maryland, and then to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and now to St Louis, Missouri.

In Ellicott City, one 9-1-1 caller stated, “The water is above the doors coming in the building, we need someone to come in,” wrote Carrie Wells in the Baltimore Sun. The woman was trapped along with eight others in the Bean Hollow Coffee and Roastery café. “There are cars flying down the street; the floor’s buckling.”

A man who was kayaking in the Patapsco River discovered the town’s iconic clock in the water, the Sun also reported. The flooding on Saturday, July 30, was the second time the city has flooded in five years. Residents and Howard County officials were wondering how they might fortify the historic valley town against extreme flooding in the future.

Losses in Baton Rouge last week were far more destructive, though. Upwards of 20,000 people had to be rescued and more than 10,000 still can’t go home, resorting to life in shelters in the parishes to the north and east of Baton Rouge, the New York Times reports.

And just today, thousands of people lost power in the St Louis area and more than 30 homes were evacuated south of the city due to flash flooding across the metropolitan region. Heavy downpours Sunday night and Monday morning came shortly after a weekend of intense rainfall in St Louis and southeastern and south-central Missouri, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

More rain was forecast for Tuesday, but the amounts were expected to be less than an inch, not nearly equaling the deluge that fell on the city over the past three days.

At least six people have been killed in the Louisiana flooding. A low pressure system, combined with record amounts of atmospheric water vapor, dumped more than two feet of rainfall over three days in some places, the Washington Post observed.

And although “climate change” doesn’t “cause” heavy rainfall, warmer global temperatures do make it more likely that rainfall will be heavier in places and at times it occurs, writes Chris Mooney in the Washington Post.

“Observations over the US and many other places around the world show that heavy rain events have been becoming heavier over the last several decades,” the Post quoted Adam Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University, as saying. “Climate models very consistently predict that this should happen as the climate warms, and basic physics leads us to interpret this change as, in large part, a consequence of increasing water vapor in the atmosphere.

“On this basis we can say that climate change has most likely increased the probability of an event like this. One still can’t say that climate change ’caused’ this event, as each event has many causes and no event can be viewed solely as a consequence of long-term trends.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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