Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Try and stop the rain? How about building infrastructure, instead?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, July 27, 2019

Extensive flooding in Muscle Shoals, AL in the NW corner of the state, in the spring of 2019

The news article which flows from the NASA story (I know… bad pun) appears below.

But either way, as usual, I’m eager to know your thoughts.

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145101/record-setting-precipitation-leaves-us-soils-soggy/

Small Towns Fear They Are Unprepared For Future Climate-Driven Flooding

https://www.npr.org/744203716

—//—

Tennessee River flooding (bottom) contrasted with normal conditions (top) under O’Neal Bridge which joins Colbert (in the south) and Lauderdale (to the north) counties in the Shoals area of NW AL

Some folks talk about a “Green New Deal” as a prospective course of action to remedy (ameliorate) the effects of Climate Change, and to provide economic impetus.

While there may be some merit to some aspects of that now-nebulous idea, there is a much more immediate and concrete need we have in response to Climate Change.

And that is, to build, expand, and repair our Economic Infrastructure in order to reduce – as much as humanly possible – the costly continual damages that are now occurring, and which will continue to occur, because of Climate Change.

When faced with flooding, a proper response is not to try and stop the rain;

it is to build levees, dams, waterways, sluices, ponds, and other hydrological management resources – including pipelines, and other such mechanisms – to prevent the damage that would otherwise occur without implementation of such measures.

Here’s a very real case in point to illustrate that very matter – the North Sea Flood of 1953.

Buid Zeeland, Netherlands 1953 North Sea Flood
Image made by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from a U.S. Army helicopter of the 1953 North Sea Flood in the Netherlands.

Described as the worst natural disaster in Europe in modern times, the flooding occurred over a two-day period January 31 – February 1, and affected Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland, with a total of 2551 lives lost, and 1836 in the Netherlands alone.

Dutch losses were particularly enormous, principally because 20% of that nation’s land lies below sea level, while 50% of it is less than 1 meter (3.3 ft) above sea level, and 60% of it all is prone to flooding.

In that flood, a total of 9% of all the nation’s farmland was submerged, 30,000 animals drowned, 47,300 buildings were damaged, of which 10,000 were totally destroyed, which cost an estimated $636 million in 1953 dollars in real and economic loss.

Relief was an international effort, and U.S. Army helicopters were flown from military bases in Germany to rescue those stranded upon their roofs. And that was just in the Netherlands, alone. Other nations were severely affected.

But in response, the Dutch did something that Americans have not done, and that was to plan – and to plan LONG-TERM & LARGE-SCALE – to reduce the likelihood and the extent of damage from such disasters, and as much as possible, prevent such catastrophic losses from ever occurring again; despite the fact that notoriously wicked North Sea storms – which, unlike hurricanes, or even tornadoes, cannot be predicted – have been ongoing for at least 1,179 years, occur practically without warning, have never abated, and instead, have increased in intensity.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has called the Dutch Delta Works, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and consists of a series of dams, dykes, locks, levees, sluices and storm surge barriers located throughout the provinces of South Holland and Zeeland to ameliorate or eliminate flooding and all related damage.

The project was conceived as being an ultimate, long-term solution to, and practical end of, the ongoing problem of regular flooding from unpredictable North Sea storms. The Dutch perspective was with a very long-term view toward the future, and established protections for failure occurrences which would occur at least:

1 per 10,000 years in North and South Holland (excluding Wieringermeer);
1 per 4,000 years for other areas at risk from sea flooding;
1 per 2,000 years for transition areas between high land and low land;
1 per 1,250 years for South Holland areas at risk from river flooding, and;
1 per 250 years for other areas at risk from river flooding.

Planning and construction for the project did not delay, and began the very next year in 1954, with costs estimated at approximately 3.3 billion guilder, which at the time equaled 20% of the Netherlands’ national GDP, and was spread out over 25 years to complete such a massive engineering project.

Costs were financed primarily by their national budget, and Americans contributed 400 million guilder through the Marshall Plan. As well, the discovery of Dutch natural gas resources provided significant contributions toward financing, and upon completion the Delta Works project in 1997, costs were established at 8.2 billion guilder.

A December 2013 North Sea storm named Cyclone Xaver pounding the coast at Porthleven, Cornwall, England. A total of 12 nations were affected by that severe storm with flooding, and wind gusts over 140mph, and sustained winds over 90mph.

The wisdom and effectiveness of their planning and construction was demonstrated relativity recently.

In December 2013, Cyclone Xaver occurred, which was an extremely dangerous and vicious North Sea storm that packed wind gusts over 142mph, with sustained winds exceeding 90mph, claimed 15 lives, and affected many European nations, including: the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Lithuania, Isle of Man, Faroe Islands, and Belgium.

Water levels from Cyclone Xaver reached their highest since the North Sea flood of 1953 at nearly 4 meters above normal sea level. In response, the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier in the Netherlands closed all 62 locks the night of 5 December, with several areas around Rotterdam which experienced some flooding, while only minor flooding was reported in Dordrecht and Vlaardingen.

While Netherlanders were affected, damage was significantly reduced and virtually eliminated by the effective presence of their Delta Works hydrological management infrastructure.

In comparison to Cyclone Xaver, the water level of the 1953 storm rose to 4.55 meters the night of 1 February, and dykes broke in at least 90 places, which made the 1953 storm the worst natural disaster in the Netherlands since the 1900s.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said that insured losses alone from hurricanes in our United Stated from 1986-2015 totaled $515.4 billion. Uninsured losses are even greater.

That’s for hurricanes ALONE – and is not counting tornadoes, fires, flooding, and other natural disasters which are occurring with increasing frequency because of Climate Change.

The State of California, which accounts for 15% of total Gross Domestic Product – the single-most, and significantly largest portion of the American national economy – reported that from 2008-2018, they spent over $4.723 billion JUST TO FIGHT fires. That is NOT accounting for material nor economic losses which occurred from those fires.

The Federal government has reported that from 2000-2017, the cost of fire suppression alone to American taxpayers was $26.67 billion.

And, according to NOAA, “the U.S. has sustained 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2018). The total cost of these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion.

Clearly, Americans’ failure to plan, or to make any effort to build infrastructure to reduce – as much as humanly possible – economic loss and damage from weather-related disasters caused by climate extremes is an unnecessary drain on our economy. And, such a failure to plan should stop.

To create just one part of national economic infrastructure, such as a hydrological management system, would save tens, if not hundreds of trillions of dollars of economic losses of all types, untold lives, and would be a long-term benefit to our nation well beyond our own lives, perhaps even our great-grandchildren’s lives.

Long-term savings will more than recoup the short and intermediate term costs to exercise responsive and preventive measures. Fix them, and many things will be much better. The economy will become much more stabilized, reinforced, and productive.

The cost of our inaction is well-known, and equally well-documented.

It’s time we acted.

The only question remaining, is:

Do we have the will?

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