Spring flooding is 'unprecedented' and 'historic' as thousands of Americans become climate refugees
On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a warning that flooding in the Midwest will be not just “historic” and “widespread,” but “unprecedented.” At least three deaths have been connected to the flooding that has completely inundated dozens of Midwestern towns and turned thousands of Americans into climate change refugees as they seek shelter away from flooded homes. And the worst is still ahead.
According to the NOAA bulletin, two-thirds of the United States mainland faces an elevated risk for flooding through May. Major or moderate flooding threatens 25 states after previously unseen levels of rainfall spread across the nation in recent months. With streams and rivers already full to overflowing, the soil saturated, and groundwater levels elevated, any additional rain could mean almost instant disaster in many areas of the waterlogged nation.
Record flooding has already punished the upper Midwest, with Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa taking the hardest hits. Flooding is spreading down the Mississippi basin, and also affecting rivers in the eastern U.S., including areas of Tennessee and Kentucky flooded by the deluged Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. The prediction calls for flooding of structures, closure of highways, and “extensive evacuation” over thousands of square miles.
Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center, said, “This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities.” He warned that the flooding already seen, as bad as it has been, is likely to become “more dire” over coming weeks. The area already predicted to be affected by major flooding, causing property damage, evacuation, and economic loss, already includes 13 million people.
And NOAA isn’t providing good news for the future. Outlooks for the spring indicate that precipitation levels are likely to remain high over exactly those areas already suffering the most from the current round of flooding. Major rainstorms are expected in the Midwest over the next eight to 10 days.