Beyond Katrina: Other Recent Louisiana Landfalls with High-Impact Storm-Surge Flooding

Climate change could intensify DC floods, but engineering can help

It was a rough morning commute for many on Monday, July 8, in Washington, DC. Severe flooding ensued after four inches (about 10 cm) of rain fell within an hour in parts of the city—making it one of the area’s top 10 wettest July days ever recorded.  I’m a DC resident myself, and as I changed out of my sopping wet clothing into dry pants brought to me by a coworker after my ill-advised bike commute, I had to ask myself: Could this extreme flooding be related to climate change?

Any individual weather event is hard to peg to climate change. Flooding, like the kind DC experienced today, is even harder because it’s the result of two separate phenomena. “It has to do with precipitation falling to the ground, but also with the way that water is managed,” Deke Arndt, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said at a press briefing in March regarding flooding in the midwest. The way water flows over…


Beyond Katrina: Other Recent Louisiana Landfalls with High-Impact Storm-Surge Flooding

Tropical Storm Barry path

While Isaac struggled to become a Category 1 hurricane until near landfall, its large wind field generated an extensive storm surge along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to parts of Florida.

Hardest hit were parts of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, where storm tides up to 17 feet above ground level spilled over a back levee, swamping the community of Braithwaite, Louisiana, and requiring some rescues from rooftops. Braithwaite was still largely a ghost town one year later.  Major storm-surge flooding also swamped unprotected parts of seven other Louisiana parishes, inundating portions of the cities of Slidell and LaPlace.

The Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana flowed backward for almost a full day due to both storm surge and high winds, triggering an 8-foot rise in river levels in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  More than 20 inches of rain in parts of Louisiana added rainfall flooding to Isaac’s impacts…

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