March 27, 2019

Massive Midwest Flooding to likely get Much Worse

Ponca Flooding1

Massive Flooding in Ponca, Nebraska, March 13. Photo: Aaron Voss/KTIV.

Back in October, we published here and in the 2019 Wheel of the Year, “Our Wettest Year Ever. Much as the repeated drenchings, floodings, and culvert destruction was challenging, and consumed our resources – the Midwest has had it worse. Much worse. In our last news post, we posted an image of Sideling Hill Creek, swollen and risen with runoff as the weather warmed with impending Spring. Imagine those conditions cranked up to ELEVEN.

The “bomb Cyclone” storm that recently settled in the center of the Nation combined with heavy snowfall in late February, tropical rains and wet snow to utterly inundate the Midwest, particularly devastating in Nebraska. This unfolding disaster, which has caused billions of dollars of damage, destroyed infrastructure and faming communities, and prompted massive evacuations – has been largely overlooked in the mass media, distracted by mind-numbing stupid human tricks - the Christchurch Massacre, Brexit, The Muller Report. But the Science Press has taken notice and is genuinely alarmed.

“The rains and floods are expected to continue through May and become more dire, according to Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season,” Clark said, “with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.”

“A combination of heavy snowfall in late February, tropical rains and wet snow from the “bomb cyclone” that swept across the country a week ago, and frozen or saturated ground surfaces have set the stage for the floods. Ice jams on top of frozen waterways are adding to the problem by diverting floodwaters out of river channels and sending them onto land. “It’s not looking like we are going to see any dry stretches anytime soon,” says Thomas Graziano, director of the water prediction center at the National Weather Service.”

– Eric Niiler, Science, Wired

Those Midwestern Floods Are Expected to Get Much, Much Worse

This would appear to be the inevitable consequence of continued wetter, warmer seasons. The implication is that the damages to the heartlands, where much of America’s food is grown, and livestock raised, is increasingly under threat.

“On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued its annual spring flood outlook, and it is downright biblical. By the end of May, parts of 25 states — nearly two-thirds of the country — could see flooding severe enough to cause damage.

scary spring flood mapNOAA Spring 2019 Flood Hazard Forecast Map.

“ ‘This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities,’ said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center, in a press release. That represents about 60 percent of all Americans.

“Across the Midwest, the recent floods have already caused an estimated $3 billion in damages — a total that will surely rise. Extremely heavy snowfall in the upper Midwest this winter, combined with a forecast for a wetter-than-normal spring, set the stage for this calamity. With the exception of Florida and New England, soil moisture in much of the eastern United States is above the 99th percentile — literally off the charts. When the ground is this saturated, there’s nowhere for water to go but into streams and rivers, taking precious topsoil with it and carving lasting changes into the land.”

– Eric Holthaus, Grist

Terrifying map shows all the parts of America that might soon flood

Needless to say, not terribly encouraging. None the less, at the Farm we are truly hoping for the opportunity to dry out a bit and get back to maintaining and sustaining the Land. We’re still planning to move some projects forward, not to mention our regular program of events. But we are trying to plan for resilience. But we are very much aware that the “new normal” must include awareness of the potential for incresingly more volatile and extreme weather.

“The flooding can’t be considered without the ongoing effects of climate change. Since a warmer atmosphere can retain more water vapor, extreme precipitation is becoming more frequent and more intense. Rainfall in the eastern U.S. is now between 29 and 55 percent heavier than it was 60 years ago, depending on the region.”

We can testify, and so can most of you, that the this past winter has been all over the map, weather-wise. In Berkley Springs, the first honest normal snowfall, without buzzard conditions, 50 mph gusts, white-outs, wintry mix, or freezing rain – didn’t fall till mid-March.

Today is calm, with the bluest clear skies we’ve seen in a while. So we’re hoping that Mother Earth will treat us with some kindness… and slack. But we do know where our muck boots are.

 – Kurt Griffith