Extreme Flooding on Both Sides of the Atlantic Brings a Wake of Fear

Kathy Covington, center, watches the powerful floodwaters of the Pearl River rush through her yard Feb. 16 in Florence, Miss. A stranger, right, stopped to give her support.

Residents watch the floodwaters rise on Mississippi’s Pearl River. Image: Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger

For parts of the Southern United States, this past winter has been one of the wettest on record and more rain is expected this week. Non-stop rains on top of already-saturated ground have brought devastating flooding that has forced people in Mississippi to flee their homes. So much so in fact that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency last Saturday.

As USA Today reported, in Jackson, Mississippi, “hundreds of residents either watched their homes flood over the weekend or worried their residence would soon be drenched as the Pearl River crested Monday at 36.8 feet, its third-highest level ever recorded – behind only 1979 and 1983.”

What’s Happening: Mississippi’s Pearl River crested at the highest level it’s been in decades and as CNN reported, isn’t expected to drop below major flood stage until sometime Wednesday. Families (especially those with small children) piled into kayaks as they tried to figure out where to go to escape the floodwaters.

Hinds County Emergency Management Director Ricky Moore warned that “There’s a lot of contamination, a lot of sewage. It’s not safe. There’s a lot of swift water, a lot of unknowns. We don’t need a tragedy out of this.”

While Governor Tate said that he doesn’t “anticipate the situation to end any time soon. It will be days before we are out of the woods and the water starts to recede.”

Why This Matters: Just last year, catastrophic and lingering flooding in the Midwest cost hundreds of millions of dollars in lost crops. However now, as the Weather Channel warned, there are troubling signs spring 2020 could bring a repeat of widespread flooding in the nation’s midsection somewhat reminiscent of last year’s massive event. 

Meanwhile, across the pond in Britain, a storm named Dennis (classified as a “weather bomb” by the national weather service, the Meteorological Office) unleashed wind gusts of 91 miles per hour, becoming one of the most intense winter storms to grip the North Atlantic. As the New York Times reported, “The impact on the ground brought chaos to parts of England, Wales and Scotland, with more than half a month’s worth of rain falling in one day.”

While these particular events can’t be attributed to climate change, a warming planet has shifted rainfall patterns, making heavy rain more frequent in many parts of the world. As the UCS explained, with human alteration of the land—like the engineering of rivers, the destruction of natural protective systems, and increased construction on floodplains—many parts of the United States (as well as in other nation-states) are at greater risk of experiencing destructive and costly floods.

On the other end of the climate spectrum: scientists worry that California may be slipping into another drought after a relatively dry winter.

Up Next

Heat Dome in Southwest Keeps Temps At or Near 100 Degrees for Days on End

Heat Dome in Southwest Keeps Temps At or Near 100 Degrees for Days on End

Temperatures are forecast to continue to exceed 110 degrees across the Southwestern U.S. this week — Phoenix might set a record for its all-time high. But it’s not only going to bake the South — the heatwave will cause 100-degree temperatures across the Ohio Valley and into the Mid-Atlantic. At the same time, NOAA forecast that a “La Niña” (cooling of the ocean near the equator in the Pacific) could develop later this year increasing the likelihood of fall hurricanes, as well as a colder winter for some parts of the country.

Why This Matters:  The very areas of the country that are being ravaged by COVID-19 are now experiencing the worst of the heatwave too.

Continue Reading 587 words
Siberia’s Record-Breaking Heat Leads to Wild Fires and Alarm from Scientists

Siberia’s Record-Breaking Heat Leads to Wild Fires and Alarm from Scientists

At the end of June, we wrote that a record-breaking high temperature of 100° F was detected in the northeastern Siberian town of Verkhoyansk. This caused alarm as this was one more indicator of the rapid warming happening at the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately, this stretch of record heat has continued in Siberia where’s it’s accelerated […]

Continue Reading 459 words
Deadly Flooding Hitting Japan Just As It Was Beating COVID-19

Deadly Flooding Hitting Japan Just As It Was Beating COVID-19

At least 50 people have died and many others are stranded and unable to get help because of massive flooding in the Southwestern Japan island of Kyushu, where torrential downpours and mudslides turned streets into rivers and washed-out bridges on Monday, with heavy rain expected to continue through Tuesday, Kyodo News reported.

Why This Matters: Torrential downpours and flash floods are increasingly associated with climate change — and the problem is global.

Continue Reading 456 words