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Geologist decries floodplain development
Date:4/1/2008

Midwesterners have to be wondering: Will April be the cruelest month?

Patterns in the Midwest this spring are eerily reminiscent of 1993 and 1994, back-to-back years of serious flooding, with the Great Flood of 1993 causing nearly $20 billion of economic damage, damaging and destroying more than 50,000 homes and killing at least 38 people.

Parallels this year include abnormally high levels of precipitation in late winter and early spring and early flooding in various regions, such as the floods of late March in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois and the Ohio River watershed. An unknown factor is the effect of the snow melt Wisconsin, for instance, had record amounts of snow this winter on river systems this spring and summer.

Despite the similarity in conditions, and periods of flooding nearly every year after those flood years more than a decade ago, one thing Midwesterners have not learned is geologic reality, says Robert E. Criss, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

When people build commercial or residential real estate in flood plains, when they build on sink holes, when they build on fault lines, when they build on the hillsides in L.A. that are going to burn and burn, over and over again, theyre ignoring geologic reality, Criss says. Theyre asking for chronic problems.

Many homes in the St. Louis region along the Meramec River have suffered damage and some are still not habitable as spring comes to the area.

Yes, the loss of and damage to homes is heartbreaking, and tragic, but it wasnt that long ago, in 1994, that a flood of equal impact hit the region to inundate homes in the floodplain, and there was more severe flooding than that in 1982, Criss says. Flooding is what a river does on its geomorphic flood plain. Its an obvious geologic mistake to build on a floodplain.


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Contact: Robert Criss
criss@wustl.edu
314-935-7441
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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