Climate Action

Record rain, record damage

Communities throughout Louisiana are being flooded as torrential rain barreled down in southeastern Louisiana and parts of southern Mississippi. Just as a federal state of emergency for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan ended, the government had a new disaster to focus on. They declared another state of emergency for four Louisiana parishes hit by the rainstorm this past weekend: Tangipahoa, St. Helena, East Baton Rouge and Livingston. Louisiana Governor Edwards also added that he “fully expect[s] that more parishes will be added to the declaration on a rolling basis.” Emergency workers and volunteers have been working to rescue more than 20,000 people all while another 10,000 have been forced into shelters. A recent video of volunteers breaking open the roof of a red sports car, sinking nose down in the floods to rescue a woman and her dog trapped inside was replayed on TV and mobile screen across the US. Many people are still trapped by the flooding. Though the full extent of damages cannot be fully assessed, an initial assessment by Impact Forecasting suggests that the floods will cause roughly $1.5 billion in economic damage. The rains, at least meteorologically speaking, were not unexpected; the combination of slow-moving, low-pressure tropical air mass fed by high sea surface temperatures, and record humidity—in addition to the unpredictability of climate change—make catastrophic floods more likely. Though the rains were not classified as a tropical cyclone, they did share many of the same characteristics with hurricanes; the counter-clockwise rotation of the storm allowed it to pull in additional moisture inland from the Gulf of Mexico. In all, this blend created record levels of rain which basically make this a once in 1,000 years flood. Climate researchers are not straight out blaming climate change…But with ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere— causing it to heat up and hold (and dump) more water, extreme weather events like this are more likely. It’s what you can expect with a warming planet—warming that is caused by humans. The floods in Louisiana are not alone. Heat waves in the Middle East and flash flooding in China earlier this month (causing up to $3bn in damages) are letting us know the planet is going through a change. You can view more images of the flooding here.