Climate change: up close and personal in Missouri

This is a guest post by Larry Lazar.

If you have had the news on the last day or two you may have seen stories and images about the Missouri floods. Many of those images are from Eureka (where we live), Pacific (where my wife Kellie works) and Valley Park (which is on my commute to work). That picture of the submerged McDonald's you may have seen on the news is in Union, Missouri, about 20 miles to the southwest of Eureka

IMG_0563We are dry, mostly, and doing okay. The basement was flooded during the initial 3 day rain event due to a failed sump pump and a couple downspouts that came unattached from the drain pipes during the heavy downfall. The hydrostatic pressure of the ground water on the foundation was simply too much to hold back. We fixed the drain spouts and had a new sump pump installed on Sunday and that stopped any more water from coming in. We are fortunate that we returned home from visiting my family in Michigan on Saturday instead of Sunday or the water would have been much higher.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take much water to ruin carpet pads and drywall. My son and I were able to get the carpets up and the pads out the back of the house with a lot of labor but not too much trouble. There are now 14 high powered and very noisy blowers and a super-sized dehumidifier running non-stop in the basement at a cost of $30 per day per machine (disaster capitalism is quite profitable). We are told everything will be dried out in 2 to 3 days.

We have learned a painful and expensive lesson about not having a sump pump rider on our home insurance. The rider would have covered damages from the failed pump. We also would have been covered if our dishwasher had overflowed but not from ground water. Fortunately, because we acted quickly, we didn’t have any significant content damage so the only costs will be drying the place out and installing new pads under the salvaged carpets. Kellie thinks she is getting some new furniture out of the deal. I have no idea how less fortunate folks that have far more damage are going to get through this financially.

IMG_0560Flood lessons to pass along: check your sump pump, downspouts and your insurance policy. Keep important stuff up off the basement floor. Purchase a generator to keep the sump pump running when the power fails.

Downtown Eureka is a true disaster. The sand bagging effort was futile against the record water levels as most of the businesses downtown have water over their front doors. O’Dell’s, our favorite Irish pub, will be out of commission for a long time so now we have to go across the freeway to have good beer from the tap. The businesses Eureka residents depend on will be out of commission for many months.

Many homes along the river have been lost and are now downstream. These homes are built on stilts and have survived many flood events in the past but stilts can only go so high. We can no longer use the climate of the past to guide our decisions on the future. The rules for the game of life have changed and we must adapt to those rules.

Eureka has now had two 500 year floods in the last 22 years. The increasing frequency of these “500 year” (or more) type events really brings home what James Hansen wrote about in “Storms of my Grandchildren”. I’m pretty sure these frequency estimates will be a meaningless descriptor in the future. It will be interesting to see what the spring brings as the climate change fueled El Nino really kicks in.

IMG_0559All the roads out of Eureka were closed except for one and that one was a parking lot most of the time. Semi tractors on curvy and hilly two lane roads are not a good combination. Many subdivisions in the area have been isolated for a couple days now. The river crested around 6 last night so water levels, and media coverage, are quickly receding and moving downriver. We are looking forward to returning to some type of normalcy, and increased urgency for action on climate change, in the New Year.

If you want to help the best thing to do is to demand increased action on climate change from your political leaders.

We will need a price on carbon (see Citizen’s Climate Lobby), increased investment in energy efficiency, renewables and nuclear, and adaptation plans for the climate changes that are unavoidable. The American Red Cross is doing great work in helping people get through these disasters. I'm sure they could use your support.

More like this

It's four am, and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in a white house, and it's ringing. Something is happening in the lab. What do you want to answer that phone? Is it a physicist with the experience and knowledge to deal with the apparatus? Even if he's only just gotten back…
We're starting to get some sense of what Cyclone Gonu did to Oman. The early reports seem to suggest that there were effective evacuations and thus relatively few fatalities (around 25 with a similar number missing). However, the capital city of Oman was swamped by water, as this AP report details…
So we made it through. Let me just note, however, that anyone who says that Irene was a wimpy storm that didn't do much damage shoulda been here. We're safe, but it was a near thing. We had close to 9 inches of rain and wind gusts that I'd estimate above 60mph - they took down two big locust…
The number of people who still aren't worried about climate change — or the number of voters willing to elect someone who feels that way, which is pretty much the same thing — is still depressingly high. But many others have long since moved on to the practical issues of how to respond to the…

Sorry to hear of your travails and those of your neighbors. Hope you can get back to some sort of normalcy soon. I imagine that people in the thick of this mess are too busy struggling with survival to think about it, but one wonders if any people will have their eyes opened to the perils of climate change by all of this.

If anything good can be said to come of these floods it may very well be that the existence of manmade climate change is real and its effects are happening now, will sink into a great many more people.

Glad to hear you came through this with a minimum of damage Greg.

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 31 Dec 2015 #permalink

Make 10 ponds around flood 100 yards by 200 yards 75 feet deep at one end. useing 10 backhoes make a channel 12 feet deep 10 feet from flood to each pond. When finished all 10 backhoes dig out 6 feet of channel into flooded area. When water subsides dig out last 6 feet. When water subsides lay in PBC 8 inch Plastic Pipe & extend it out 3 feet past pond opening. On other end bring up to flood stage & put a valve in so it opens & closes for safety. Fill in dirt so all is underground. If my solution is left implemented. Then there wont be anymore Freshwater floods in this area even in the future. The Major Disaster Solutionist American Master.

By Michael J. Schmitz (not verified) on 31 Dec 2015 #permalink

I wonder how Eureka fared almost 90 years ago.
Wiki says
“The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles inundated up to a depth of 30 feet.”

Unfortunately, nothing in that article about climate change.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 31 Dec 2015 #permalink

#4 1. What will it take for you to realize that we are moving into a new climate regime?
2. The current flooding appears to be the new record in many areas. If the current flooding is record flooding,and if it has eclipsed old records, why are you bringing up the old records?
3. What will it take for you to realize that creating fossil fuel carbon dioxide at over a million pounds per second, 24/7, is, in and of itself, capable of pushing us into a new climate regime?
4. Do you think that ignoring a problem is a good way to solve it? Do you think that failure to recognize a problem is a valid strategy for coping with it?

@See Noevo #4:

Of course, the flood control measures/defences were *so* much better 90 years ago. It's tragic, what with all the technology we've lost over time. Must be due to the increasing scientific ignorance of the U.S. population.

By metzomagic (not verified) on 01 Jan 2016 #permalink

Yes, it flooded in 1927. And yes, actually, the measurement techniques were probably about the same.

AGW gives us more weather disasters. That does not mean that there were never weather disasters before. It means that there are more of them. See Noevo is either a moron or does not care if she looks like a moron, in the hopes of misleading actual morons who might happen on her idiotic comments.

Having said that, the 1920s were interesting. Global warming had already started. Increasing greenhouse gases and land clearing, etc. had been going on at a fairly high rate for well over a century. Global surface temperatures were already elevated. During those decades (from the 19th century to the mid 20th) natural climate variation and human variation were more of the same scale, and the human causes included downward forcing of a magnitude not minuscule compared to upward forcing, as it is today. In those days, not only did we have to walk to school uphill in both directions, but we hat REAL pauses in global warming. The for several years during the 20s and 30s, there was not a pause, it was unpaused, and many of the effects we would later see associated with larger scale global warming showed up on a smaller scale.

That period was a kind of Global Warming 1.0, far less extreme than today,

By the way, on the instrumentation: My impression is that the biggest difference between "then" and "now" which varies by region) for on the ground flood monitoring is the number and density of instruments, and my impression is also that a lot of river gauges got added to uplands, and better coordinated, to develop flood warning systems, in various times and at various places after various major flooding events.

Re: the major dampness of ~89 years ago - I recently read, and very highly recommend, John M. Barry's Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 02 Jan 2016 #permalink