Sunday, February 19, 2006

Weather Summary For 02/19/2006

Temp: High; -10.7 C/13 F, Low; -21 C/-6 F

Total Precip: None

Note: Coldest day of the season, and the year, thus far.

"Scientists warn of next New Orleans"

"Scientists warn of next New Orleans"

....Concentrated development raises catastrophic flood risk around the
country, they say (Source: Associated Press, 2/19/06)

ST. LOUIS -- Concentrated development in flood-prone parts of
Missouri, California and other states has significantly raised the
risk of New Orleans-style flooding as people snap up new homes even in
areas recently deluged, researchers said yesterday.

Around St. Louis, where the Mississippi River lapped at the steps of
the Gateway Arch during the 1993 flood, more than 14,000 acres of
flood plain have since been developed since. That has reduced the
region's ability to store water during future floods and potentially
put more people in harm's way, said Adolphus Busch IV, a scion of the
Anheuser-Busch brewing family who is chairman of the Great Rivers
Habitat Alliance.

Similar development has occurred around Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; Los
Angeles; Omaha, Neb.; and Sacramento, Calif., said Gerald Galloway, a
professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"The half-life of the memory of a flood is very short. You can already
hear it in Washington, D.C.: New Orleans where?" Galloway said of the
lack of action in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last summer.

The research was presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the
American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In California, development in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, where
flood control efforts began in the mid-1800s, represents a major risk
to cities such as Stockton as they expand, said Jeffrey Mount, a
professor of geology at the University of California, Davis.

"We are reinventing Katrina all over again," Mount said.

Mount estimates a 2-in-3 probability over the next 50 years of a
catastrophic levee failure in the huge delta region east of San Francisco.

Even a moderate flood could breach the delta's levee system while a
larger one, perhaps after an earthquake, would inundate the region,
Mount said.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, which covers 738,000 acres, receives
runoff from more than 40 percent of California. Much of the land is
below sea level and relies on more than 1,000 miles of levees for
protection against flooding, according to the California Department of
Water Resources.

"In California, we know that we have two kinds of levees: Those that
have failed and those that will fail," Mount said.

The lack of coordination among local, state and federal officials
after a flood was evident with Katrina. Similarly, even before a storm
hits, coordination on issues such as land use and development is a
problem, Galloway said.

"Local land decisions later result in cries for federal help. Does
that make sense? No," Galloway said, adding that the federal flood
program was "rudderless."

Nor do efforts to guard against floods automatically reduce risks,
said Nicholas Pinter, a professor of geology at Southern Illinois

Pinter said as much as 85 percent of the Mississippi in St. Louis is
confined behind levees, which have raised flood levels 10 feet to 12
feet higher than they were a century ago. That parallels the situation
in New Orleans, which suffered catastrophic flooding when levees
failed in the wake of Katrina.

Bolstering levees might lure more people onto flood plains, Mount said.

In California, the modest investment required to shore up a levee
protecting farmland can result in a drastic increase in the value of
that land, Mount said. That in turn increases the likelihood a farmer
will sell out to developers, ushering in the construction of houses on
what had been flood plain.

"You actually spur development. It's a self-fulfilling process," Mount

In the St. Louis area, there has been an estimated $2.2 billion in new
construction on land that was under water in the 1993 flood, Pinter
said. New Orleans probably will not be immune to that same lack of
foresight, he said.

"If you want to look at what probably - unfortunately - will happen in
New Orleans in the next 10 years, look at what has happened in St.
Louis in the last decade," Pinter said.

The weather situation, too, may worsen, said Anthony Arguez of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"As the climate warms, we expect more extreme precipitation events.
That means what once might have been a 100-year flood might be a
50-year flood," Arguez said.

Norbert Schwartz, director of the mitigation division of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency's Chicago office, did not dispute that
there has been a "substantial" amount of construction on lands
abutting levees across the United States.

But he said the national flood insurance program saves $100 billion in
potential flood costs each year.


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Weather Summary For 02/18/2006

Temp: High; -10.3 C/13 F, Low; -21.1 C/-6 F

Total Precip: None

Note: Peak sustained winds of 30 mph/48 km/h, with frequent peak gusts up to 50 mph/81 km/h, occurred through out the predawn and daylight hours.

One instances of sustained winds briefly (for less than 10 minutes) reaching 40 mph/64 km/h, with two peak gusts of up to 60 mph/97 km/h, occurred in the predawn hours.

Coldest day of the season, and the year, thus far.