Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Toowoomba Flood - Incredible Flash Flood in Urban Waterway

The following incredible YouTube video has been making the rounds on the internet. It shows a flash flood quickly raising in level and tossing cars like plastic toys.

There has been a lot of talk about the influence climate change may have had on this flood. I haven't heard much talk about how watershed conditions may have made the flood worse as well. So, I pulled up a map of this creek.  Click below to see what I found.

Sure enough, a large portion of this watershed is within an urban area with impervious substrates.

There is no doubt that a downpour as severe as this one would have caused flooding anywhere - even a pristine natural watershed. That being said, if a few more runoff-management structures were in place in the nearby neighborhoods, the peak flow would almost certainly have been delayed substantially, at least by 10 or 20 minutes (a total guess, but it seems reasonable). This would have probably allowed for more of the cars to be moved, but more importantly, could have easily allowed at least a few of the at least ten people killed by this series of floods to reach safety.

Climate change is an important topic and I don't mean to say it isn't.  However, we are certain that floods, droughts, and pollution are being worsened significantly by the decreasing health and function of watersheds around the world.  I've seen a flash flood in a (mostly) natural watershed and the sights and sounds, including huge boulders rolling down a canyon and literally shaking the ground, are immense and humbling.  Still, it's important to remember that so much of what we think of as 'acts of nature' or 'acts of God' are in fact, consequences of our own decisions.


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