Music Break: CCR – Have you Ever Seen the Rain?
January 10, 2016
Richter thinks West Alton will lose around 20% of its population as residents decide to pack up and leave. It’s happened before – following widespread floods in 1993 the town’s population dropped by two-thirds.
“There are some good people that just aren’t coming back,” he says. “The flooding has become just too much of an inconvenience. I really don’t want the community to die.”
The winter floods, of a scale unseen since the time a young Twain was on a skiff, caught Missouri a little by surprise. Tragically so – at least 24 people have died as a result of the floods so far, with many of these, including a group of overseas soldiers, perishing while trapped in their cars. With the water funneling downstream to southern states that have already declared pre-emptive states of emergency, this grim number is likely to climb.
Heavy flooding isn’t meant to occur until spring, when the melting winter snows swell the rivers. Instead, hundreds of people saw in the new year enveloped in the Mississippi, houses marooned in muddy water, trees poking out like rice stalks.
To many Missourians the culprit is clear – a hefty 10 inches of rain fell on east Missouri and west Illinois from Christmas onwards. But others are beginning to wonder whether some difficult choices need to be made in the face of an increasing number of flood events and the misery they cause, rather than simply brushing them off as a flinty reality of midwest life.
In the past eight years, there have been three major flooding events on the Mississippi. The definition of what is considered a rare or freak flood is being stretched. Some residents feel their clean-ups are becoming a little too routine.
Hydrologist Bob Criss, of St Louis’s Washington University, recently studied flooding events in Hannibal. Every year between 2009 and 2015, bar one, Hannibal has experienced a flood that’s officially considered either a once in every 10-year or once in every 50-year event.
“Our flood frequencies are way off. It’s absurd, a tragedy,” Criss says. “Every time, the authorities blame unusual rain events. It’s balderdash. We are just in denial.”
Climate change is playing a role, with extreme downpours becoming more common in the midwest as moisture builds up in the atmosphere. US government scientists warned last year that heavy rainfall and flooding poses a growing risk to the midwest’s transportation, agriculture, human health and infrastructure. As if to underline this point, 2015 was the second wettest, as well as second warmest, year on record in the US.
With pictures of flooded towns and villages still filling our national newspapers, official figures released today confirm that December 2015 was the UK’s wettest month on record, seeing more rain than any other month since 1910.
Storms delivered a total of 230mm of rain across the UK, according to the Met Office analysis. That’s nearly twice as much as the long-term December average between 1981-2010.