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In June 2008, several parts mid-western United States were affected by floods, triggered by heavy rains and overflowing rivers. The floods caused damage worth billions of dollars drowning parts of the U.S. farm heartland and drove millions from their homes. The June 2008 Midwestern US floods resulted in "the worst agriculture disaster in state history," with one in every 10 acres of corn and soybeans lost at a cost of at least $800 million.

Across the region up to 5 million acres of corn and soybeans is expected to have been lost, fueling worries that world food inflation will worsen even as oil prices touch record heights.


Role of man in the Iowa Flood

As Iowa's Cedar River rose higher and higher, people stacked sandbags along the levee protecting downtown Cedar Falls, which soon gave way. Experts opine that the floods were not entirely a natural disaster. In the past century changes in the land, have made Iowa's terrain not only highly profitable but highly vulnerable to flooding. More so, in the past few years, the landscape has been radically re-engineered by humans. Plowed fields replaced tall grass prairies. Streams and creeks were straightened. Most of the wetlands were gone. Floodplains were filled and developed. All this took away the land's water-absorbing functions.

People started farming closer to creeks and rivers. Without adequate buffer strips, the water moved rapidly from the field directly to the surface water. The biofuel/ethanol boom that began in 2006 encouraged corn cultivation and in 2008 corn alone covered more than a third of Iowa's land surface. Between 2007 and 2008, farmers took 106,000 acres of Iowa land out of the Conservation Reserve Program. That land, if left untouched, probably would have been covered with perennial grasses with deep roots that help absorb water.

Experts suggest that farmers should immediately start crop rotation as corn and soybeans as annual plants don't put down deep roots.

The receding waters of US Midwestern flood left toxic mud. A layer of toxic sludge brought into the houses after floodwaters ran through gas stations, paint stores, sewage plants and farms that house fertilizer and pesticides, covered everything. Apart from the pungent smell, the toxic mud contained elevated levels of bacteria, e-coli, and some industrial chemicals, some motor oil and diesel fuel were found.

What is flood?

Sometimes during very heavy rains, when the ground cannot hold any more rain water and the rivers and lakes overflow and the water has no place to go, floods occur.

Flooding of a small stream in Ladakh, Indian Himalayas

Floods and flash floods, the deadliest of natural disasters, have far reaching effects on people and the environment as they claim thousands of lives every year and render millions homeless. One frightening aspect of flood is that it can occur nearly anywhere, at any time. It can result from excess water jams on rivers, even moderate rain, or a single very heavy downpour.

The end of flood is heralded when the waters recede after the rains end and sun comes out to help with evaporation. However, the recession of the water is not a quick phenomenon and takes days and weeks. Even then people might have to pump the water out of their homes. Disaster management is very crucial at this stage to limit the damage.

Causes of flood

Floods are likely to occur after severe thunderstorm, monsoon, hurricane and typhoon.

Floods generally develop over a period of days. When rivers and lakes overflow, the water spreads over the land next to it called the floodplain. At times of heavy rainfall, this happens very quickly and flash floods occur with little or no warning. Flash floods are the worst kind of flood and cause the biggest loss of human life compared to any other type of flooding.

Coastal areas are also at risk from sea flooding when storms and big waves bring seawater onto the land. The worst cases of flooding may occur if there is a combination of storms, ‘spring tides’ and low atmospheric pressure.

Impact of flood

Flood is a disaster that needs to be taken very seriously. Regardless of ones ability to swim, swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children. Cars or other vehicles do not provide adequate protection from flood waters. Cars can be swept away or may break down in moving water.

The large amount of pooled water remaining after the flood leads to an increase in mosquito populations in India and some other warm countries and incidence of malaria and dengu rise.

Many wild animals are forced from their natural habitats by flooding, and many domestic animals are also without homes after the flood. General public is exposed to rabies. Animals are disoriented and displaced, too. Rats may be a problem during and after a flood. Take care to secure all food supplies, and remove any animal carcasses in the vicinity by contacting MCD

Flood waters bury or moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places. Car batteries, even those in flood water, may still contain an electrical charge and should be removed with extreme caution by using insulated gloves. The receding floods might leave toxic mud as in the case of the US Midwestern floods.

The dead animal if not removed in time further pollute the atmosphere. The displaced people would have lost every thing and needs to be provided with proper food shelter and financial support. When people from flood affected areas return to their homes after the flood waters recede, they need to keep a few things in mind.

Useful tips for people returning home after flood

  • Wear sturdy shoes and use flashlights when examining the building.
  • Watch out for animals, bugs, and snakes that may have come into your home with the floodwater.
  • Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas.
  • Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being return to service. Report broken utility lines to the proper authorities.
  • If the pilot light went out on your natural gas furnace, hot water heater or stove, have it checked and corrected by qualified electrician.
  • If your water is provided by a community water system that lost pressure during or following the flood, do not drink the water until it is determined to be safe.
  • If your water is provided by a well and the well head was covered by floodwaters, you should have the water tested by Public Health officials and determined safe. If treatment is necessary, follow Public Health officials' directions.
  • If drinking water is not available, locate other sources of safe liquids, such as juices, soft drinks, or other beverages not exposed to flood waters. *Other sources include water stored in clean, covered containers or water stored in a bathtub.
  • When electricity is lost for several hours, frozen and refrigerated food may not be safe to eat.
  • Do not refreeze thawed food. Throw away all food that has been under water, except canned foods.
  • Cans of foods should be washed and sanitized before opening.
  • All food that cannot be saved should be double-bagged for normal disposal or buried at least two feet deep.
  • Be particularly careful to disinfect all surfaces that come into contact with food, i.e., countertops, pantry shelves, etc.
  • If there has been a back-flow of sewage into the home, wear rubber boots and gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard items that cannot be disinfected.
  • Pump out flooded basements gradually to avoid structural damage.
  • Stay out of buildings if floodwaters remain around the building.

The worst destructions caused by the floods

The worst destruction caused by flood was the disappearance of the two cities -Herakleion and Eastern Canopus -- that lay at the edge of the Mediterranean more than 1,200 years ago and were swallowed by the sea.

Until recently, the only evidence that they existed came from Greek mythology and the writings of ancient historians. Then expeditions by scientists in 1999 -2000 found that the two cities had collapsed when the land they were built on suddenly liquefied. The cities were found at the depths of 20 to 23 feet (6 to 7 meters) below the waters of Abu Qir Bay. The ruins of Eastern Canopus were nearly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) east of the Aku Qir headland and Herakleion rested more than 3 miles (5.4 kilometers) from the shore.

Flood Insurance

Floods cause devastation of life and property and can strike anywhere. The US government established National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968 to help deal with the financial cost of flooding. In addition to making sure communities have sufficient flood management, NIFP aims to provide affordable flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners. Though, those in a flood plain are at higher risk of loss, it is suggested that even those in lower risk areas should still consider flood insurance.

Did you know?

  • Only 15cms of fast-flowing water are needed to knock you off your feet!
  • Nine out of ten " US Presidential Disaster Declarations" result from natural phenomena in which flooding is involved.
  • Eighty percent of flood deaths occur when people drive into water or simply walk into moving water.
  • It only takes two feet of water to make a large vehicle buoyant enough to loose traction and float away.


  • Flooded Midwest Asks White House for More Aid
  • What Is Flood Insurance?
  • Floods and flash floods
  • Tropical cyclones and flooding
  • Eyeing man-made causes in Iowa's flooding -- The Washington Post