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Flooding, Landslides and Mudflows in Florida Essay

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Updated: May 13th, 2020

Excessive rainfall is disastrous to human livelihood as well as economic development. In the American history, records show the catastrophic effects of weather and in most cases flooding due to heavy downpour, hurricanes, and El Nino in the late 20th century (Lin II par.4). Hence, the current expectations of an occurrence of El Nino downpour in California are terrifying and especially at this period when Americans had the 10th anniversary of the hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005.

California has a vast landscape that is venerable to flooding due to flat topography in the Orange County and lowlands that form the water basins along the Pacific Ocean. The state has experienced two El Nino downpours, viz. 82-83 and 97-98, which had adverse effects on the livelihood and the country’s economy. During the 97-98 rains, 17 people lost their lives, and there were massive landslides and flooding that had never been experienced before in history. Consequently, other regions were also affected by the weather whereby they experienced wetter winters than ever before as well as double the amount of rainfall downpour (Rice par. 8).

Southern Florida lies along the Pacific Ocean and although climatologists predict than El Nino will hit the state of California, there is a high likelihood of more than normal amount of downpour being experienced in this year’s spring season. During the El Nino rains of 97-98, the heaviest downpour was recorded in the history of Southern Florida. Therefore, there is a high likelihood of the same happening in the oncoming spring season (Watson and Adams 89).

Southern Florida has a coastal watershed where waters coming down to the ocean from rivers flow into bays, lagoons, and estuaries. The state government has the responsibility of protecting the biodiversity that watersheds harbor. Watershed is defined by the nature of the physical features that separate water bodies from the dry land. Therefore, since Southern Florida lies along the ocean shores, it has a coastal watershed that comprises bays, lagoons, and estuaries.

These watersheds have economic benefits since they provide good environments for leisure tourism in the sand beaches. The lagoon watershed has a flat topography, which is mainly made of sand soils and thus it does not hold water for a long time during rainfall. The flat topography, which in geological terms can be defined as a floodplain, is highly developed into cities since Miami is built on a lagoon, and it is the business center of Florida.

Map showing South Florida watershed.
Fig. 1: Map showing South Florida watershed.

Southern Florida experiences a moderately wet climate and consistent weather pattern throughout the year. Florida is in the equatorial region and thus it has the same climatic patterns as the regions in the sub-Saharan regions. However, the highest rainfalls come during the summer months from March to May and late October to early December. Cases of extreme precipitations are recorded with the most common being the Hurricane Easy of 1950, which was recorded in Yankeetown. This case is the highest rainfall to have ever been experienced in Florida. On the other hand, the region experiences moderate dry season although the driest season was in 1998 soon after the end of the El Nino.

Southern Florida is the business hub of Florida State. Consequently, it is a highly developed urban region and especially in the coastal watershed where Miami is built. The economic developments interfere with nature and thus the natural drainage system has been modified to artificial drainage systems (Blake, Rappaport, and Landsea 6). Consequently, there is a high likelihood of flooding if the extreme precipitation is experienced during the oncoming El Nino rains.

Urban developments are the extreme human interference with nature as numerous infrastructures have blocked the natural drainage systems especially in the city and along the highways. However, artificial drainage systems have been developed to accommodate the runoff waters in the cities and along the highways. Unfortunately, such systems are designed to handle the runoff that comes from the developed sites only. Hence, the extreme precipitation, which brings runoffs from other regions, could cause flooding in the city and other developed sites in Southern Florida.

Southern Florida has natural forests that are affected by wildfires. The worst wildfires were experienced in 1998 during the La Nina season that succeeded the El Nino downpour. The fires affected large parts of the forest zone thus leaving the natural land vulnerable to flooding and mudslides in the lowland and hilly areas respectively. In the recent past, there has been an extremely dry weather with numerous wildfires being recorded in Florida and California. The wildfires leave bare topography, which is vulnerable to extreme precipitation. Therefore, there is a high likelihood of mudslides being experienced in the hilly regions as well as flooding in the fat lowlands due to El Nino (Loczy 3).

There are very high chances of debris flows, mudflows, and landslides occurring during the El Nino rainfall period. As aforementioned, many regions are prone to these disastrous earth movements since the land has been left bare due to wildfires and infrastructural developments. Debris flow is the movement of rocks downhill in the rocky areas due to precipitation thus causing other earth movements. Such movements normally take place in the rocky mountainous regions where rocks are not covered by vegetation. Mudflows occur due to heavy downpour, which makes the soil wet and vulnerable to movements in the hilly regions that are not covered by vegetation.

Landslides are like the mudflow in the sense it is a movement of land due to precipitation. However, it is extreme, and it can be defined as the earth movement due to extreme precipitation in the hilly region regardless of the presence of vegetation. Numerous catchment basins exist in the lowland, which were designed to hold the solid materials, and they are normally emptied after the wet season (Nagourney par. 2).

Levees are used to hold extreme waters from running off into the protected region and the residential areas in most cases. Southern Florida does not have levees to protect the extreme flooding since the lowland areas are still higher as compared to the sea level, unlike the case in New Orleans where land is below the sea level. Therefore, levees are used to protect the rising sea level from overflowing into the residential areas. Besides, there are no bypasses in the region regardless of numerous developments having taken place in the urban regions. A bypass is an alternative drainage channel that is designed to divert water to other regions in case of flooding. Several dams can be found in the region, and they are well designed as to provide flood protection whereby they were built across the natural drainage patterns for the excess waters to flow naturally.

Works Cited

Blake, Eric, Edward Rappaport, and Christopher Landsea 2008, (and other frequently requested hurricane facts). Web.

Lin II, Rong-Gong. “Los Angeles Times. 2015. Web.

Loczy, Denes. Geomorphological impacts of extreme weather: Case studies from central and eastern Europe, London: Springer Science & Business Media, 2013. Print.

Nagourney, Adam. “New York Times, 2015. Web.

Rice, Doyle. “USA Today. 2010. Web.

Watson, Donald, and Michele Adams. Design for Flooding: Architecture, Landscape, and Urban Design for Resilience to Climate Change, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Print.

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