Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown

March 21, 2020

Climate change is a threat multiplier.


As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

“The current situation with COVID-19 presents us a fight on two fronts: one front, we have the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and on the other, what promises to be a very active spring 2020 flood season,” Sharon Broome, mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said on a press call Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week released its spring flood projections, predicting moderate to severe flooding in 23 states. The greatest risk for “major and moderate flood conditions,” federal experts say, is along parts of the Mississippi River basin.

For local leaders in the Midwest, this situation is offering a crash course in how to plan and respond to multiple types of disasters simultaneously. And in a warming world, overlapping and compounding disasters will likely be the new normal. Human-caused climate change is already increasing the intensity and likelihood of certain extreme weather events, including heavy rain and related flooding in the middle of the country.

“We’re good at responding when a disaster stares us in the face,” Kris Johnson, deputy director at the Nature Conservancy, told BuzzFeed News. “But we’re really not good at thinking about what can we do now to mitigate and dampen the potential impacts and increase our ability to be resilient to future impacts, whether they are public health–related or whether they are flooding.”

According to Broome, a network of regional mayors has been preparing for possible flooding for weeks, coordinating with each other, the Red Cross, Congress, and federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But the pandemic is complicating matters, requiring more virtual coordination and forcing planners to update response and recovery protocols to take into account the specific threats of the pandemic.

“I think we can anticipate that as we move forward, we will see more burnout for our first responders, greater depletions of our supplies, and greater demand for more recovery money,” said Alice Hill, a climate fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has also studied pandemics.

So far, local officials have been tallying and growing reserves of personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, volunteers, and others involved in the anticipated flood response, including head coverings, masks, gloves, and goggles. In some areas, the distribution of premade sandbags to vulnerable communities has already started to avoid a last-minute rush if and when catastrophe strikes.


5 Responses to “Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    When it rains, it pours—in this case both literally and figuratively (with a bit of Murphy’s Law thrown in). Good luck to all those folks in the upper Midwest—that is an ugly map.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Each family has to stay on its own roof.

  3. […] Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown […]

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    This is exactly why I’ve been so insistent about doing whatever it takes to institute a massive emergency climate mobilization right now, including a peaceful revolution.

    Multiple simultaneous and serial disasters is our most likely future. We can’t let them stop us from demanding and getting the solutions to this and future plagues, and Climate Götterdämmerung. Already the right wing government of the us has implemented more of its own program to drive us toward fascism and the end of civilization: giving $150 billion for oil and gas; letting slip the dogs of profiteering and price gouging; busting unions; passing new voting restrictions in Kentucky; putting more restrictions on science, controlling the populace by reducing them to poverty huddled in (or on–thanks, rwg) their huts, (when what’s needed is different https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/20/kind-coronavirus-response-package-we-need?cd-origin=rss&utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email ). They’ve tried to get away with insider trading and enriching mbillionaires and corporations (and some no doubt have gotten away with them) while impoverishing most of the country and a lot of the world; allowed GMO crops in wildlife refuges; unleashed even more inhumane conditions on the people of Iran, and probably fomented dozens of things we don’t know about. There is no way to save civilization or nature without removing them from power, and no way to do that with ignored protests and rigged elections.

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