Societal Aspects of Weather

Floods Floods

"Parts or all of over 20,000 communities in the United States are subject to a substantial risk of flooding. Some of these communities are along large rivers and smaller streams, some are in the desert, and some are on hillsides. With very few exceptions, almost all areas of the United States are subject to some kind of flooding when the right set of circumstances occur."
From: The Learning Center

Section 1. Organizations and Agencies

Section 2. General Resources

Section 1. Organizations and Agencies

Association of State Floodplain Managers
The Association of State Floodplain Managers is an organization of professionals involved in floodplain management, flood hazard mitigation, the National Flood Insurance Program, and flood preparedness, warning and recovery. The group has become a respected voice in floodplain management practice and policy in the United States because it represents the flood hazard specialists of local, state and federal government, the research community, the insurance industry, and the fields of engineering, hydrologic forecasting, emergency response, water resources, and others.

Bureau of Reclamation

CSU Flash Flood Lab
The Flash Flood Lab at Colorado State University is a problem-focused, multi-disciplinary center providing applied research, education and a communication forum to reduce the future impact of flash flood disasters. This site provides information about the lab and flash floods, upcoming events, how to prepare for and survive a flood, and links to other relevant sites.

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

NWS River Forecast Centers (RFCs)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Geological Survery Water Resources of the U.S.
The main water resource page of the U.S. Geological Survey directs readers to reports of current floods or other hydrological events. The site also includes a page offering current streamflow conditions for many states as well as numerous links to other information on the web.

Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB)
The site of the National Research Council's Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) provides the mission statement of the board, information about current and past projects--many of which deal with flooding and other water-related hazards--and on-line reports and other publications. The site also includes the WSTB Newsletter, with current project updates and contact information.

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Section 2. General Resources

Are Flood Warnings Futile?
Flood warnings often don't work well and too frequently fail completely - and this despite great effort by the responsible authorities. This paper examines flood warnings and offers several policy, practice, and research suggestions.

Boulder Creek Flood Notebook
The "Boulder Creek Flood Notebook" is a unique Web project. It is a plan for documenting and disseminating information about the causes and effects of a specific disaster that has not yet happened: the next great flood of Boulder, Colorado.

California Flood Information
This site includes a clickable map of potential and actual floods in California, copious links to sources of flood information and weather updates, as well as related information on such things as disaster preparedness and recovery, snow reports, etc.

California Flooding
During the month of February 1998, California was struck by a series of storms due in part to the effects of El Niño. The state suffered over $550 million in damages and 17 storm-related deaths; 35 counties were declared federal disaster areas.

Coping with Flood
The North Dakota State University Extension Service offers this thorough Web section which provides resources for homeowners and family members, and discusses how to prepare for flooding and steps to take after a flood. It includes detailed information on everything from assessing damaged electrical systems and appliances to dealing with financial concerns.

Dartmouth Flood Observatory
This Web site is a research tool for early detection, mapping, measurement, and analysis of extreme flood events world-wide using remote sensing. Also provided is a comprehensive global register of large river floods. In development are methods for obtaining globally-consistent measurements of such events and relating them to climatic phenomena such as El Nino.

Dams and Floods
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) research warns that dams built with the promise of reducing flooding can often exacerbate the problem with catastrophic consequences, as some recent floods have shown. "Dams and Floods" shows that dams are often designed with a very poor knowledge of the potential for extreme flood events. Where data does exist it may fail to consider current risks such as increased rainfall due to climate change or increased run-off of water from land due to deforestation or the drainage of wetlands. The loss of these natural sponges for floodwaters within the river basin increases the risk of extreme floods. WWF argues that many of these problems could be avoided if the recommendations of the first ever World Commission on Dams (WCD)were applied to future dam projects.

Evaluation of CRS Credited Activities During Hurricane Floyd
Following Hurricane Floyd, FEMA funded a study to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of flood mitigation activities that had been implemented in North Carolina. The results of that study are now available in the report, "Evaluation of CRS Credited Activities During Hurricane Floyd."

Flood Damage in the U.S.
Flood Damage in the United States, 1926-2000: A Reanalysis of National Weather Service Estimates, by Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Mary W. Downton, and J. Zoe Barnard Miller, is a reanalysis of flood damage estimates collected by the National Weather Service (NWS) between 1925 and 2000. The flood damage estimates presented in this website are compiled from NWS records and publications, supplemented by reports of other federal and state agencies. The accompanying report includes an evaluation of the accuracy of the estimates and recommendations for users of the data.When properly used, the reanalyzed NWS damage estimates can be a valuable tool to aid researchers and decision makers in understanding the changing character of damaging floods in the U.S.
Federal Emergency Management Agency:
    FEMA Consumer Guide to Reducing Flood Risks
    FEMA's "Surviving the Storm: A Guide to Flood Preparedness" outlines measures individuals and business owners can take to protect their families, property and communities in the event of flooding.
    FEMA National Flood Insurance Program
    FEMA operates this program to provide relatively inexpensive flood disaster protection for communities certified to participate in the program; more than 3 million policies are in force. Information on communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program can be found at: FEMA - National Flood Insurance Program Community Status Book. Information about the Community Rating System, which provides reduced premiums to communities that undertake flood mitigation activities exceeding NFIP minimum standards, can be found at: NFIP Community Rating System.
    Flood Hazard Mapping
    This FEMA site provides an overview of the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA's map modernization program.
    Map Service Center's Online Access to National Flood Insurance Program Products
    This site is just one of a suite of online services planned to expedite the dissemination of FEMA's flood map and insurance products that support FEMA, its customers, and the user community. MSC products include: Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRM), Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), Flood Insurance Study reports (FIS reports), Digital Q3 flood data, Community Status Book, Flood Map Status Information Service (FMSIS), Letters of Map Change (LOMCs), and NFIP Insurance Manuals.
    Technical Mapping Advisory Council Final Report
    This is the final report of FEMA's Technical Mapping Advisory Council, encapsulating 5 years of work by a council created by Congress through the 1994 National Flood Insurance Reform Act. The following recommendations are deemed by Council consensus as the most important:
    • Acquiring additional financial and technical resources for map programs;
    • Building constituent interest and public support for modernizing the mapping program using a process that includes public education and public outreach;
    • Building partnerships among various Federal, State, and local governments, universities, and the private sector to accomplish NFIP objectives; and
    • Creating a fully digital environment for floodplain mapping and all related information.

FEMA's Draft Guidelines and Specifications for Flood Hazard Mapping Partners
FEMA has recently prepared these Draft Guidelines and Specifications. It is requesting comments on them from interested parties by November 9, 2001. The draft Guidelines define the technical requirements, coordination and documentation activities, and product specifications for flood hazard maps and related National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) products.

Final Report of the Flood Emergency Action Team
In January 1997, Californians suffered severe flooding across the entire state, resulting in at least $2 billion in damage. To address the many questions that these floods raised, the governor of California formed a Flood Emergency Action Team (FEAT), which held citizen advisory meetings across the state. Its report describes its efforts, lists the team's final recommendations to the governor, summarizes the flood event and the emergency management response to it, lists broad floodplain management issues for the state, describes possible flood control system improvements, and examines consequent funding issues.

Flood Impacts
In most years, flooding causes more deaths and damage than any other hydrometeorological phenomena. In many years it is common for three-quarters of all Federally declared disaster declarations to be due, at least in part, to flooding. This site lists flood fatalities and damages since 1903.

Floodplain Management Web Site
This page provides a general description of the field of floodplain management.

The Floods of 1996
FEMA maintains this site for Internet coverage of the floods of 1996. It includes preparedness and recovery information, news releases, etc.

Floodsystems listserv
This listserv has been established for the community dedicated to reducing injuries, deaths, and property damage caused by floods.

The Gathering Storm
Never before has so much flooding so humbled America. An assessment of flooding in the United States in the 1990s.

Insurance News Network NFIP Information
This site provides background information on the National Flood Insurance Program, including a Frequently Asked Questions section.

The Learning Center
A great general resource for information on floods -- risks, causes, frequency, glossary, etc. (from the Floodplain Management Web site)

Living with the Red
Although the 1997 Red River flood was a rare event, floods of the same magnitude, or even greater, can be expected to occur in the Red River basin in the future. The people and property will remain at undue risk until comprehensive, integrated, binational solutions are developed and implemented. This is a report of the International Joint Commission to the governments of the U.S. and Canada on reducing flood impacts in the Red River basin.

Louisiana Floods
The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center's Cooperative Extension Service maintains this Web site which includes sections on flood conditions, safety and recovery, emergency protection, and flood damage prevention. It provides numerous downloadable publications on flood mitigation and floodproofing, including "Beyond the Basics," which covers flood risk and protection.

Midwest Flood of 1993: Weather, Climate, and Societal Impacts
Roger Pielke Jr.
This is the second case study of the extreme mesoscale events and impact project. This report has three general objectives: (1) to review what is known about the U.S. flood problem in terms of societal vulnerability; (2) to examine the various processes society has developed to address flood problems; and (3) to distill lessons from various assessments and retrospective analyses of the Midwest Floods of 1993.

Mitigation Success Stories In the United States
A joint project of the Association of State Floodplain Managers' Flood Mitigation Committee and the Federal Emergency Management Agency Mitigation Directorate, 1999, Mitigation Success Stories in the United States is intended to showcase examples of natural hazard mitigation activities and to publicize the benefits of mitigation successes across the U.S. The project's sponsors hope these examples can serve as models for others to use and provide decision-makers with valuable information about how to formulate, undertake and ultimately achieve natural hazard reduction in our communities.

National Weather Service Significant River Flood Outlook
This map shows flood potential for the contiguous 48 states. Updated daily, this 5-day outlook provides an entry point for users seeking more detailed hydrologic information provided by the NWS's regional River Forecast Centers and Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs).

NCDC Heavy Rainfall Maps
A complete resource of 24 hour rainfall maximums by state.

The NOAA NESDIS ORA Flash Flood Home Page
Experimental products for flash flood forecasting

Non-structural Measures for Water Management Problems Workshop
Non-structural measures are an attractive alternative and addition to structural measures that may reduce the loss of life and property caused by water-related problems. The main objective of this workshop was to identify the role of non-structural measures in sustained set of actions that improve society’s capacity to anticipate, mitigate, withstand and recover from water-related problems. This site from the UNESCO workshop includes presentations, list of participants, comments, media response, and a photo gallery.

Ohio River Valley Flood of March 1997
A National Weather Service evaluation team was sent to the Ohio River Valley following severe weather events in early March of 1997 that produced flash flooding and record river flooding across the region. This Web site offers a downloadable "Service Assessment" that includes findings and recommendations from that event. This report is in.pdf format; you will need ACROBAT to read this file.

Publications available from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado
Strengthening Local Flood Protection Programs. Proceedings of the Tenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, June 1986. 326 pp.

What We Have Learned Since the Big Thompson Flood. Proceedings of the Tenth Anniversary Conference, July 1986. Boulder, CO. 282 pp.

Partnerships: Effective Flood Hazard Management. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, May 1989. Scottsdale, AZ. 315 pp.

Inspiration: Come to the Headwaters. Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, June 1991. Denver, CO. 400 pp.

Action Agenda for Managing the Nation's Floodplains. A Review of Floodplain Management in the United States: An Assessment Report.1992. 22 pp.

Cross Training: Light the Torch. Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, March 1993. Atlanta, GA. 250 pp.

NANIA - "All Together." Proceedings of the Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, May 1994. Tulsa, OK. 472 pp.

From the Mountains to the Sea - Developing Local Capabilities. Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, May 1995. Portland, ME. 490 pp.

Coast to Coast: 20 Years of Progress. Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, June 1996. San Diego, CA. 414 pp.

Floodplain Management in a Multifaceted World. Proceedings of the Twenty-first Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, April 1997. Little Rock, ARK. 372 pp.

Times Are Changing: Flood Mitigation Technology. Proceedings of the Twenty-second Annual Conference of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, May 1998. Milwaukee, WI. 478 pp.

Gruntfest, E. C., ed., 1997. Twenty Years Later: What We Have Learned Since the Big Thompson Flood Event. 230 pp.

Machalek, J. 1992. A Bibliography of Weather and Climate Hazards (2nd Edition). Topical Bibliography No. 16, University of Colorado, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center. 331 pp.

Moore, J.W. and D.P. Moore 1989. The Army Corp of Engineers and the Evolution of Federal Flood Plain Management Policy. 184 pp.

Weiner, J. 1996. The Socioeconomic Aspects of Flooding in the U.S.: A Topical Bibliography. Topical Bibliography No. 19, University of Colorado, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center.

To Order

Red River Flooding Short-Term Measures
Interim Report of the International Red River Basin Task Force to the International Joint Commission December, 1997.

Red River of the North Flood Reports
Two on-line NWS reports about the Red River of the North Flood of 1997: Service Assessement and Hydraulic Analysis (August 1998); Actions Taken Following the Red River of the North Flood of 1997.

Risk Frontiers: Mainstream flood risk rating and analysis
Included on this site is a GIS-based model for estimating mainstream flood risk in urban areas on a per address basis. Users can determine risk according to zip code for certain cities in Australia.

Scientific Assessment and Strategy Team (SAST)
SAST was formed to provide scientific advice and assistance to Federal officials responsible for making decisions with respect to flood recovery in the Upper Mississippi River and Missouri River Basins, and to develop and provide information to support the decision making process regarding both nonstructural and structural approaches to river basin management.

Significant Floods in the United States During the 20th Century - USGS Measures a Century of Floods
During the 20th century, floods were the number one natural disaster in the United States in terms of the number of lives lost and property damage. For more than 110 years the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has measured floods for the nation's benefit while supplying streamflow data with its extensive stream-gaging network. This report lists, by type of flood, 32 of the most significant 20th century U.S. floods in terms of number of lives lost and/or property damage. Links for near-real-time streamflow data and other pertinent flood information are also provided.

Sustainable Water Use in Europe - Part 3: Extreme Hydrological Events: Floods and Droughts
This report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) presents an overview of the main causes and impacts of floods and droughts in Europe and provides an overview of policy responses to prevent such disasters or reduce resultant damage. It also describes some of the major recent disasters in the region and thus provides a comprehensive survey of flood and drought hazards in Europe.

Updating Flood Inundation Maps Efficiently
This Web report details a new geographical information system (GIS)-based mapping method, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, that can be used to produce updated flood inundation maps with greater detail at a much lower cost than traditional hand-drawn flood maps.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood Plain Management Services and Coastal Resources Branch

U.S. Geological Service (USGS) Floods

Who Decides? Forecasts and Responsibilities in the 1997 Red River Flood
Roger Pielke Jr.
In the spring of 1997 the Red River of the North (which flows north along the border of Minnesota and North Dakota into Canada) experienced extreme flooding. Catastrophic damages resulted in Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks, MN with losses estimated at over $2 billion. Immediately following the event, local, state, and federal officials began pointing fingers at flood predictions as a factor leading to the damages. For several months prior to the flooding the National Weather Service had predicted a flood crest of 49 feet at East Grand Forks. The actual flood crest was 54 feet. What role did the flood predictions play in the disaster? This paper analyzes the use and misuse of flood forecasts in the flood of 1997 in the Red River of the North.

The Winter of '96-'97 West Coast Flooding
NCDC Technical Report 97-01; NCDC Research Customer Service Group, January 1997. Please contact NCDC at 704-271-4800 or for further information and data.

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