osaka eq

Osaka Earthquake Rattles Whole Prefecture

Monday morning, began with a bang six hours south of Tokyo when a preliminary 6.1 magnitude earthquake rattled the Osaka Prefecture, killing five and injuring hundreds more. This is yet another for the list of “Ring of Fire” activities early this year, including the Guatemala and Hawaii Volcanic Eruptions. The Osaka earthquake was later downgraded by the Japan Meterological Agency (JMA) to a 5.9 Magnitude and to 5.5 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake classified as a “6 Lower” at five observation stations in the Osaka-fu Hokubu Region and a “5 Upper” at another 14 stations in the Kyoto-fu Nambu. All 19 stations are located in the Osaka Prefecture.

osaka earthquake 1

Osaka Earthquake from June 18th and shaking intensity across the nearby Sub Regions of Southern Honshu

Osaka Earthquake Tragedy in Takatsuki

Later in the week, an interesting story developed regarding one of the quake-related deaths. According to local news in Osaka, it was reported by the local education board that school authorities had known for three years a “substandard concrete wall” would be a danger if a major earthquake happened near the Juei Elementary School in Takatsuki. Unfortunately, as predicted, 9-year-old Rina Miyakewas was tragically crushed to death after the wall collapsed.  Miyake was merely headed into the school when the quake struck Monday. In a related development Friday, the Japan Times reported the local education board in quake-hit Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, also said it had discovered another 15 public schools where substandard concrete walls on their premises could pose a danger to students in the event of powerful earthquakes.  Seen as a major wake up call to the rest of the schools, the board added that the remaining walls “will be removed in a few weeks”.

osaka earthquake shakemap

Shakemap showing the Osaka Earthquake and Juei Elementary school near the epicenter

Officials Warn Threat May Not Be Over

Worried that the earthquake could be the predecessor to a bigger one, officials warned the public to be on their toes. It was determined this week’s Osaka Earthquake was part of the same fault line that produced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. That tragic event claimed more than 6,400 lives. Luckily, experts are claiming the probability is low for another, larger seismic movement in the coming days. They did, however, cite a magnitude 6.5 earthquake two years ago in Kumamoto Prefecture and surrounding areas of Kyushu which preceded a magnitude 7.3 temblor two days later. 50 died from the Kumamoto quakes.

Sources:

CNN

The Japan Times

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Japan Meterological Agency

 

Wildfire near home in Possum Kingdom, TX

Will wildfire risk impact my home insurance?

Over the last thirty years, the length of wildfire season has increased by nearly 20% around the world. In California, the idea of wildfire ‘season’ is nearly laughable as large growth, damaging wildfires happen year-round on a regular basis now. While wildfires can happen just about anywhere, the western US States are usually at greater risk for experiencing wildfires. Higher rates result from this increased risk and, in some areas, the insurance companies may not offer coverage at all.

Why is wildfire coverage important?

Home built in the WUI

Many communities are building farther into the wilderness (Credit: Google Earth)

As approximately one-third of homes in the United States are in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), insurance companies are updating what is and is not covered in cases of wildfire. Insurance companies may factor in wildfire history in the area, home construction materials, vegetation, and topography, for example. In a few of the highest risk areas in the country, some insurance companies have opted to avoid writing policy coverage at all!

When structuring your policy, be sure to ask questions to know what is covered and how you are protected in case of wildfire. Policies may cover additional living expenses (ALE, in case damages or loss make your home uninhabitable), fire department service charges, or repairs and debris removal after a covered loss. There may be an additional option for fire insurance specifically for your non-primary residence. Different carriers offer different protections and add-ons, so be sure to know what you need.

What property features are considered?

Construction materials, surrounding vegetation, and landscape features are a few considerations when determining wildfire risk. (Credit: Oregon State University)

Construction materials, surrounding vegetation, and landscape features are a few considerations when determining wildfire risk. (Credit: Oregon State University)

Vegetation, alone, on your property isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. Insurers will typically take into account the location and type, as well as density, of the surrounding vegetation. Fire stations and hydrants near your home alleviate some levels of risk as there are preventative resources near the home should a wildfire emergency occur. Topographical features could play heavily on your potential extra costs. If you live in or near notable high risk areas, such as a canyon or the deep woods, additional insurance charges may be added to cover the increased risk to your home from wildfire. Roof type, along with eaves and siding materials, may also play a factor. For example, a wood roof (even if treated) is at much higher risk of catching fire from embers than a clay tile roof.

Homeowners can ensure they maintain significant defensible space that can help slow or stop a wildfire from spreading to your home and property.

Can I do anything to help protect myself?

Do not be discouraged! There are steps you can take to help make your home more fire-resistant. Programs like the Wildfire Partners Program out of Boulder County, Colorado, give homeowners a property assessment with specific tips, updates, landscaping, and removals that decrease their risk to a wildfire. Additionally, some insurance companies have specialists that perform consultations and provide the homeowner a report with recommended improvements to eaves, patios and decks, roofs, and vegetation. In areas with high wildfire risk, insurance companies may require this kind of consultation and follow up work in order to authorize writing the policy. As always, be your own advocate, and take the first steps to giving your home the best chance of survival from a wildfire. However, if you choose to live in a high wildfire risk area, be prepared to pay a bit higher premium to have proper insurance coverage in case of a destructive wildfire.

Source(s):

https://disastersafety.org/wildfire/preventing-fire-damage-other-roofing-tips/

http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/

http://www.wildfirepartners.org/our-program/

 

CalFire Finds Cause for Fire Siege, But Questions Remain

The legal battles begin as California still reels and begins to recover from what became the worst fire season in living memory last year. CalFire released a report on the first of several fire investigations from 2017’s northern California fire “siege”. The investigation specifically covers the four fires in Butte and Nevada Counties: La Porte, McCourtney, Lobo, and Honey fires. Investigators determined that tree branches coming into contact with power lines caused all four fires. In three of the fires, with La Porte being the exception, CalFire found Pacific Gas and Electric in violation of Public Resources Code section 4293, which concerns tree clearance management along power lines.

The ramifications of these and future investigations could end in big payouts by Pacific Gas and Electric for structure losses caused by the fires. The Napa/Sonoma Fire Siege, which included about 170 individual fire starts, caused an estimated $15 billion in damages. If Pacific Gas and Electric is found responsible for the fire starts, they could be on the hook for a large chunk of those damages. Property law can get pretty tricky when dealing with privately run public utilities. In the past, utility companies were able to pass the cost of damages along to ratepayers as part of providing service, but a recent case with San Diego Gas and Electric may put an end to this practice.

Historical Precedent: San Diego Gas and Electric

2007 Witch Fire

Regulators, investors, insurers, and homeowner victims are closely following the now decade-long legal process following three massive fires in San Diego County in 2007. The Witch, Guejito, and Rice fires together destroyed 1,300 homes and left San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) with a $2.4 billion bill. The utility company and its insurers already paid the damage claims, but SDG&E is trying to recoup about $379 million of its losses through a structured increase in the ratepayer bill over 6 years. They argued that the wind event was unprecedented and so severe that the fires could not have been avoided. The California Public Utilities Commission disagreed and rejected the plan, stating that SDG&E was not a prudent manager of its infrastructure. CPUC was clear in their statements that their decision does not represent SDG&E’s current wildfire management. SDG&E has since invested heavily in wildfire planning, intelligence, and response.

The positive changes at SDG&E are precisely the reason that the California Public Utilities Commission does not want to allow utilities to pass the damages to the ratepayers. It would disincentivize the utility companies to invest in better wildfire prevention.

Investors worry that the SDG&E decision will set a precedent to determine if PG&E will be held liable and if they can force ratepayers to cover the cost. Whether Pacific Gas and Electric will be found responsible for a majority of the losses in the larger Napa/Sonoma fires is still unclear. Even if they are found liable, who will pay?

 

Source(s):

http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/newsreleases/2018/2017_WildfireSiege_Cause%20v2%20AB%20(002).pdf

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-utility-wildfires-20171017-story.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-28/for-a-look-at-pg-e-s-fate-after-fires-watch-this-san-diego-case

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-sdge-wildfirecaseruling-20171130-story.html

http://www.cbs8.com/story/37043932/lilac-fire-powerful-debate-over-sdge-cutting-off-electricity

 

hurricane harvey spins in gulf

2018 Hurricane Season Begins June 1st

Hurricane season arrived early this year, as Subtropical Storm Alberto became the first named storm of the season late last week. Alberto ruined a Memorial Day weekend for the majority of the Gulf Coast as it doused the area with rain and even flooding. This anomaly subtropical storm actually came slightly earlier than the official start date of hurricane season. The official hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th for the Atlantic Ocean, and May 15th through November 30th for Eastern Pacific Ocean. After last fall’s major hurricane impacts, RedZone wanted to relay what the hurricane forecasts are predicting about the upcoming hurricane season.

Colorado State University releases an “Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability” report each year. This report is based off models that incorporate 30 years of atmospheric conditions, and hurricane data for statistical analysis. The current conditions in the Atlantic Ocean seem to be in a weak La Niña currently. This means that the oceans temperatures are relatively cooler than average. This is not conducive for hurricane formation and strengthening.  As a reminder, ENSO, otherwise known as the El Niño and the Southern Oscillation, is the periodic fluctuation of sea surface temperature. The worry from the Oceanic forecast, though, is that the ENSO transitional phase will occur during the summer months. The thinking is, the transition from La Niña conditions into even a mild El Niño (warmer sea surface temperatures) could result in above normal hurricane activity this hurricane season.

named storm predictions

This figure is the results from the model that Colorado State uses to predict the hurricane forecast.

This figure depicts the final analysis made by Colorado State University in totality regarding numbers related to the upcoming hurricane season. As you can see this year is expected to be above the 30 year average in every category that is shown. Below is a figure depicting FEMA’s modeling outlook for the Hurricane season. FEMA’s model shows very little variation from what Colorado State’s results were.

NOAA Hurricane Season Outlook

NOAA’s Hurricane Season Outlook is predicting an average to above average year

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/27/us/weather-storm-alberto/index.html

https://www.livescience.com/57671-hurricane-season.html

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ninonina.html

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/teleconnections/enso/enso-tech.php

A New Source for Wildfire Intelligence and Discussion

The 2018 wildfire season is already off to a strong start. So far this year major fires have already igniting across Texas, Oklahoma, and the southwest. As we move into the summer months, increasingly warm and dry conditions will continue to fuel the threat of wildfires. The National Inter-agency Fire Center released their fire potential outlook for summer months, predicting an above average fire season for all of the twelve western states making wildfire intelligence gathering even more essential. This foreboding outlook comes on the heels of an oft dubbed “unprecedented” 2017 wildfire season that shattered multiple records.

A Trusted Source Lost

2017 thrust the threat of wildfires back into the public spotlight. Numerous fires across the United States grabbed nationwide media attention but none more than the two most significant California fires; The October Fire Siege in Napa/Sonoma and the Thomas Fire in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area. With broadcast and social media flooding in, one trusted source of wildfire intelligence was surprisingly absent from the conversation. Without notice, during the late season chaos of the Thomas fire, the WildlandFire.com forum was taken offline and all the data was lost.

What was WildlandFire.com?

WildlandFire.com was conceived in the early nineties as a way to provide, “a quick, reliable system to allow firefighters and other employees (and their families) the ability to voice their thoughts, ideas, experiences, or even ask a few simple questions.”. By the late nineties the forum gained traction, soon becoming a trusted source within the firefighting community.

Wildfire Intelligence Forum

Understanding the essential role this type of web forum plays, a conversation started on how to revive the website. A group of “devout users and former moderators” ultimately decided it was best to spin-off a new website. This new website, branded wildfireintel.org, was created as a non-profit with the mission to create a forum for discussing “topics important to the fire community”. Relevant subjects include fire related “incidents, jobs, industry, safety, and health”.

Wildfire Intelligence Forum Example

An example of how the forum is structured based off geographic regions.

For More Information and How to Register

Although it’s still in the initial stages of development, wildfireintel.org is now up and running. Knowing that forums survive by the active participation of its users the founders of the website are encouraging the fire community to contribute to the site. The founders hope that with increased participation an “active and sustainable wildfire community” will again foster. For more information, please visit the wildfireintel.org website and/or become more involved by registering.

logo

Wildfire Intelligence Logo

fire on the horizon

Do the First Five Feet Matter Most?

Experiments, models, and post-fire studies have shown homes ignite during wildfires due to the condition of the home and its surroundings, up to 200′ from the foundation. The last couple of years, fire researchers have found more and more cases of homes burning down due to combustibles directly linked (first five feet) to the structure. Specifically, embers and small flames from low intensity surface fires are igniting adjacent combustibles which are, in turn, igniting homes. Therefore, the Home Ignition Zone receiving the most attention lately, is the area within 0-5 feet of the home.

H I Z

The Home Protection Zone as suggested in the Wildfire Home Assessment Checklist published by Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (Source: http://disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/wildfire-checklist_IBHS.pdf)

First Five Feet Defined

The actual home, including roof and deck, along with the area within five feet of the zone makes up what the NFPA refers to as the “Immediate Zone”. According to the site, science has proven that this is the most important zone to take action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers and therefore home ignition. The group also provides a few suggestions for this zone which will help the survivability of a home during a wildfire event.

  1. Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  2. Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  3. Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
  4. Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
  5. Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  6. Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches
six keys to the first five feet

The six keys to safety in the 0-5 foot zone


Sources:

Disaster Safety Organization

NFPA

NFPA Xchange Blog

This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Kilauea Volcano Continues to Erupt

The Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted last week Thursday, May 3rd, breaking open rifts and opening lava vents. While Kilauea has been continuously active for the last 35 years, this recent episode occurred alongside a 6.9 earthquake. Nearby neighborhoods were evacuated as fissures began releasing lava that spread throughout Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.

This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Kilauea Eruption – Friday, May 4, 2018, 12:46 p.m. HST (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Due to the rate that lava spreads compared to other typical natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfire, people were able to safely leave their homes. Photos and videos show the progression of destruction through the neighborhood as the lava pushes through homes and new fires ignite. One homeowner had been working on a car on his property and was unable to move it out of the way, but the true loss — the R2D2 mailbox his daughter had made him for Christmas. The impact was caught in this time-lapse video.

Fissure locations under Leilani Estates

Fissure locations under Leilani Estates east of the main active crater

Confirmed losses from Kilauea

As of May 10th, 36 structures have been destroyed, mostly in the Leilani Estates area. Despite the overall ongoing spread of lava, scientists are now warning area residents that ballistic projectiles may be emitted in the next few weeks. This would occur as the lava sinks in the crater lake and interacts explosively with the groundwater. The “projectiles” could range in size from pebbles to boulders weighing several tons. With so many unpredictable dangers from these ballistic projectiles to poisonous gases of the lava and ash to earthquakes, homeowners who still have a home to return to will not be sleeping easily any time soon.

USGS is alerting nearby residents about the possibilities of ballistic rocks.

USGS is alerting nearby residents about the possibilities of ballistic rocks.

 

Read Further

  • http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/38087728/new-kilauea-eruption-triggers-house-fires-as-hundreds-evacuate-area
  • https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/10/us/hawaii-kilauea-volcano/index.html
  • https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/05/us/hawaii-kilauea-volcano-eruption-cnnphotos/index.html
tinder thumbnail

Illegal Campfire the Cause of Destructive Tinder Fire

The Tinder fire was ignited Friday April 30th in the Blue Ridge area about 50 miles southeast of Flagstaff. RedZone began actively monitoring that afternoon as it grew to 50 acres. By Saturday night the fire slowly grew to 230 and then 500 acres only. On Sunday, things changed drastically. Fanned by strong southwest winds, the Tinder fire made an 8,000 acre run to the Northeast. The run pushed the fire into and beyond the community along Hwy 87 threatening homes in the Moquis Ranchettes, Starlight Pines, Clear Creek, Timber Ranch, Tamarron, Pine Canyon, Blue Ridge Estates, Ponderosa Pines and Mogollon Ranches areas.

Tinder Fire Slows its Growth

Monday, the fire has grew to over 11,000 acres with most of the growth, luckily, on the right or eastern flank where there are no homes or neighborhoods. Fortunately, despite strong winds continuing in the area, only 300 acres of growth was seen yesterday. In addition, the fire area experienced precipitation of snow and light rain overnight that should assist firefighters’ progress (from only 7% as of 5/2/18) with containment lines. Furthermore, with an estimated 30 homes impacted, damage assessments were  completed Monday by the IMT. But, as of today, there were still no results released to the public. As a result of the fire situation, road, area and trail closures are in effect.

tinder fire map

The Tinder Fire Perimeter as of May 2nd, 2018

 

Tinder Fire Facts: (As of May 2, 2018)

  • Location: Blue Ridge Reservoir, 48mi SE of Flagstaff, AZ
  • Cause: Investigators have confirmed that the cause of the blaze was an abandoned illegal campfire.
  • Size: 11,736 acres
  • Containment: 7%
  • Fire Behavior: Moderate fire spread through timber and chaparral.
  • Structures Threatened: _1,700_ PRIM; __COMM; __OUTB
  • Structures Destroyed: _UNK_ PRIM; __COMM; __OUTB

Additional Tinder Fire Info:

For further info, please visit:

The Watchers News – Arizona

http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

www.twitter.com/TinderFireInfo

RedZone Disaster Intelligence

How Can Technology Assist Insurance Carriers With Disaster Moratoriums?

Have you ever wondered how home insurance companies deal with writing new policies in an ongoing disaster zone? Well the truthful answer is they don’t. For instance, when a large wildland fire is threatening homes or has the potential to, insurance carriers place a moratorium on the surrounding landscape. A moratorium is a temporary, but indefinite hold on writing any new home insurance policies within the blanket area that is declared. The purpose of this practice is to stop new customers who aren’t covered for fire, or other disaster related damages, from buying a policy right before the home is damaged. The problem is the geographic regions that are typically chosen for a moratorium are too large. The regions that are chosen usually include areas that are not threatened by the disaster in any way shape or form. This leaves an undesirable gap in business for both the insurers and possible policy holders. Here at RedZone we like to focus on utilizing technology coupled with expertise to solve complicated problems such as this one.

Wildfire

                With advances in current wildfire modeling, insurance companies can have a more precise understanding of what is taking place on the ground currently, as well as what is likely to take place in the upcoming hours of the fire. Wildfire modeling accounts for the essential driving factors behind a wildfire so it can accurately depict where the fire is heading. You can read more about the aspects taken into account in RedZone’s Wildfire model here. By using a wildfire model, insurance companies can reduce the size of the geographic areas that are placed under a moratorium. Then the carriers will have an understanding of where the fire will be moving. This benefits both parties involved in many ways. If a home is not covered for wildfire, and a fire breaks out near the home it may spark an interest for the homeowner to obtain coverage on their home for fire. If the area that the home is located in is under a moratorium, the homeowner will not be able to purchase a policy for that type of coverage.

Canyon 2 Wildfire Model – first 24 hours without suppression

canyon2 final perimeter

Canyon 2 Fire Perimeter – shows the fire’s extent in the first 48 hours with suppression

Hurricane

                In the case of hurricanes, insurance carriers are even more precautious about writing new business when a storm of hurricane magnitude is approaching. The process of putting a moratorium in place for a storm begins when the National Weather Service declares a low pressure system to be of a tropical storm magnitude. You can learn more about hurricane formation and power at RedZone’s Blog on Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Insurance companies immediately put a moratorium into effect for the projected zones that will be impacted by the incoming storm. These areas range from zip codes to counties and even expanding to encompass entire states that could possibly be impacted by the storm. A large portion of homes that are located in a moratorium of that size will likely not be affected by flooding or wind damage from the storm.

One of the ways that GIS (Geographic Information Systems) can help with this problem is with a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) Dataset. When loaded into a GIS this data will depict what the terrain on the ground will look like. These elevation layers coupled with flood plain data would give an accurate depiction of the level of threat to a structure. What has to be taken into account is that each storm is different. The flood data chosen must accurately match the expected rainfall from the storm in the general location. One solution is to utilize the most severe flood data available, so that the estimations are on the safer side. Another factor that needs to be considered is the damage that occurs from wind during one of these events. GIS is capable of running buffers based on the projected storm path. A buffer coinciding with the relative wind speeds that are capable of damaging homes would be a safe way of creating more accurate moratorium zones during a hurricane. 

NOAA track Oct8

NOAA Potential Track Map issued Thursday Oct 10th, 8pm eastern

Source(s):

http://wiseinsurancegroup.com/insurance-moratoriums-binding-prohibitions/

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2017/12/18/474612.htm

https://www.jebrown.net/content/169/brush-fire-moratorium

http://velocityrisk.com/commercial-insurance/moratorium-policy

https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/10/06/how-the-insurance-industry-prepares-for-hurricanes/?slreturn=20180326132445

DISASTER 101 – FLOODING

When most people think of natural disasters, the first thing to come to mind is not likely flooding. However, flooding is the most common natural disaster. Flooding occurs in all 50 states, accounts for 40% of natural disasters, averages 5 billion dollars in damage each year, and claimed an average of 75 lives per year over the last 30 years.

Worldwide, statistics are similar.

According to the 30 year average, flooding is responsible for the most weather-related fatalities.

TYPES OF FLOODING

River and Lake Flooding

River and lake flooding is probably what most people envision when they think of floods. Heavy rainfall or snowmelt can cause water levels to rise overflowing banks and levees. River flooding is common in the Midwest as rain and snowmelt swells the tributaries that feed into larger rivers downstream. Once the water level crests the river banks, the area that is inundated can be widespread. Low lying areas, saturated soils, and urban areas can further exacerbate the effects of the overflow and take days to dissipate.

California experienced flooding in February when a weekend of storms increased runoff from Anderson Lake and flooded low-lying areas of San Jose. The early year storms also prompted the evacuation of over 88,000 people near the weakened Oroville Dam.

In May of 2017, heavy rainfall over the Midwest caused widespread flooding. Nearly 15 inches of rain fell over multiple states, saturating soils, and swelling multiple rivers above historic levels. Numerous levees were breached which flooded towns causing an estimated $1.7 billion dollars in damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

40% of all natural disasters are flooding.

Coast Guard overflight of South Carolina flooding

Coastal Flooding and Storm Surge

A form of flooding happens regularly along coastlines due to the cycle of rising and lowering tides. Tides are a regular rise and fall of sea level caused by the gravitational interplay of the sun, moon, and earth. Occasionally, these tides can be exceptionally high. An increase of just a few feet is more than enough for tides to breech natural and man-made barriers. Many coastal cities are very near, or in some cases lower than, sea level making them especially prone to any change in sea level.

Storm surge can also cause extreme coastal flooding. The surge develops during severe weather, hurricanes, and tropical storms raising sea level as much as 25 feet. Sea level rise is the result of the low atmospheric pressure found in these storms which has a similar effect on sea level rise as the gravitational pull on tides. High winds common with these storms also cause large waves to batter the coast and push water farther inland. In worst case scenarios, the storm surge strikes the coast during a high tide cycle, increasing the flooding exponentially. Storm surge flooding is responsible for 90% of hurricane related deaths and the majority of the damage to structures.

In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey alone caused over $125 billion dollars in damage and killed 89 people. The majority of the devastation caused by Harvey was a direct result of the widespread flooding of the Houston area.

Flash Floods

Flash floods can result from a variety of causes, but the common denominator is that they develop quickly and are normally caused by heavy rainfall. These floods can also be the result of snow melt, dislodged ice, inadequate urban drainage, or dam breaks. The actual volume of water carried in a flash flood is usually less than other flood types but the water is channeled down confined spaces which causes it to move with devastating force and speed. Because of this speed, flash floods are very dangerous, easily carrying mud, rocks, and trees in its flow. A Weather Channel article stated that, “water flowing at 7 mph has the equivalent force per unit area as air blowing at EF-5 tornado wind speed.” Whereas, “water moving at 25 mph has the pressure equivalent of wind blowing at 790 mph, faster than the speed of sound.”

 

BASIC SAFETY AND PREPAREDNESS

Ready.gov provides many helpful tips.

Be Mindful

  • Stay tuned to phone alerts, TV, or radio for weather updates, emergency instructions, or evacuation orders.
  • Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. 6 inches of moving water can knock a person over, and one foot of moving water can sweep a vehicle away. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the leading cause of flood-related injury and death is individuals attempting to drive through flood waters.
  • Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters. Floodwaters can scour foundation material from around the footings and make the bridge unstable.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, move immediately to higher ground.

Protect your home

  • Know your flood risk, avoid building in flood plains, and consider buying flood insurance.
  • If you have to evacuate due to flooding, and if safety permits, turn off all the utilities to your home and attempt to move valuables to the highest possible level.

SOURCES

https://www.ready.gov/floods
https://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/floods/types/
https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017-2018
http://www.floodsite.net/juniorfloodsite/html/en/student/thingstoknow/hydrology/floodtypes.html
https://weatherology.com/articles/106/The+Dangers+of+Flash+Floods.html
https://weather.com/storms/severe/news/power-flood-water-20130704
https://www.livescience.com/23913-flood-facts.html