Flooding in the NW WS4 PHS 100 Environmental Studies
Professor David Terrell Warner Pacific College
May 5, 2009
We as a society are always at the mercy of the weather which usually is tied to natural disasters. Some natural disasters which can happen, have all happened in our little section of the world we call the Pacific Northwest, (Floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides). I will be looking at some of the flooding that has occurred here locally, a little about flooding, and what to do about flooding. I was born and raised in the Portland area, living here all my life I have seen my share of rain and I remember not too long ago the flooding we had along the Willamette River in 1996. I will get to that in a moment, but first… What is a flood? According to Floodsmart.gov, “Anywhere it rains, it can flood. A flood is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow”. It also says ‘Just because you haven’t experienced a flood in the past, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future”. The article mentions that Flood risk is not always based on history; it’s based on factors such as rainfall, river-flow and tidal surge data and changes because of development and building. (floodsmart.gov) Flooding can happen anytime of the year but some main causes can be Tropical Storms and Hurricanes, which luckily we don’t have around this area, Levees and Dams, (there are a few in Oregon), spring thaw, (we definitely see that when things warm up) heavy rains, which we do have a lot of, (off and on), flash floods and new development to name a few. (floodsmart.gov) Levees are made to protect against a certain level of flooding, but they can decay over time which makes maintenance a challenge. Levees can fail during a large flood, creating more damage than if it wasn’t even there. “Because of the escalating flood risks in areas with levees, FEMA strongly recommends flood insurance for all homeowners in these areas.”
I looked online and in Oregon there are ten levees and dikes but none are in the Clackamas County area or close by, there are four in Tillamook County, two in Columbia County, two in Klamath Area County: Howard Bay, one in Klamath Area County: Crystal Springs and one in Lake Area County: Summer Lake. (itouchmap.com) Flash flooding has happened in Oregon but is not very common, I found a few cases online but they are rare, and they are not usually in the Portland area. Heavy rains occur more frequently here which can cause flooding in warm temperatures if there already has been a lot of rain and snow in the mountains. Why would new development have anything to do with flooding? I discovered when I was researching this subject that according to floodsmart.com, “Construction and development can change the natural drainage and create brand new flood risks. That’s because new buildings, parking lots, and roads mean less land to absorb excess precipitation from heavy rains”.
Why do you need to protect yourself from floods with flood insurance? Because homeowners insurance doesn’t cover floods and, “floods are America’s #1 natural disaster,30% of all flood insurance claims come from areas with minimal flood risk”. (floodsmart.gov)Besides investing in flood insurance, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from losses due to flooding and to keep your family safe. Make a “flood file” which contains information about all your possessions which includes receipts, photos and videos. Copies of important documents like bank and financial records. Make sure you have a family emergency plan, and make a safety kit with canned food, water, first aid, blankets, radio and a flashlight. “Plan and practice an evacuation route with your family”. (floodsmart.gov) I have never been affected badly by flooding personally but I remember seeing the flooding of the Willamette River in 1996. My mother was working at a place called Willamette View which is located off River Road in Milwaukie with a view of the Willamette River. My son Jeremy (who is 15 years old now) at the time was little and about 2 years old. I remember my mother called me and said I should come down and get a look at how high the water was because the ground is high enough that it is safe there. I took Jeremy down to visit my mom and see how high the water was. I have a picture of us down there and I remember looking down at a house that was flooded and you could only see the top of the roof. Besides the Willamette River, the only other local rivers to me are Johnson Creek and the Clackamas River. I have heard about flooding along both of these rivers recently also. In conclusion, Even though I feel safe living in the Pacific Northwest, I realize that a natural disaster can occur anytime. I still believe we are lucky to live the Pacific Northwest where the climate is mild, and it is beautiful and green.
Unknown Author, (April 23, 2009), The official site of the NFIP, Retrieved May 6, 2009, from http:// www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/preparation_recovery/after_a_flood.jsp Unknown Author, (2009) Oregon Levees, Retrieved May 6, 2009, from http:// www.itouchmap.com/?s=or&f=levee