The Path to Preparedness: Floods

Weather News

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Most of the time, snow melts and rain falls without any problems. But when flooding happens, you can’t underestimate the power of water.

Spring flooding on the Connecticut River is literally a rite of passage, the passage of snow that has melted from our mountains and valleys and running the course to the ocean. Most years our spring snowmelt happens with only minor flooding in the “usual” spots.

Flood Control

There are large flood control structures working to keep us dry and out of harm’s way. One of them is the Knightville Dam in Huntington. Built after the 1936 spring floods, it protects Westfield and the rest of the lower Pioneer Valley from snowmelt and tropical rain. 

The Knightville Dam holds back nearly 16 billion gallons of water, and over its history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates it has prevented 338 million dollars of damage.

The flood control extends beyond the dam with a network of dikes and pumping stations. While the threat of flooding from spring snowmelt is pretty much done this year, the threat of street flooding from thunderstorms is increasing as we move toward summer.

Street and stream flooding from heavy downpours is dangerous and becoming more frequent.

“What we’re finding is the rain storms we’ve been having recently are shorter in duration and much more intense. The rainfall that we are getting overwhelms our systems.” Joseph Pipczynski is Director of Easthampton Public Works 

There is science to back this up  

“We’re seeing increases in the heaviest precipitation events across the northeast. Also, we’re seeing an increase in annual total precipitation as well. So the total we’ve received last year was one of the wetter years on record.” Prof.  Michael Rawlins is Associate Director of the UMass Climate System Research Center

Easthampton is recognizing the trend, taking the science seriously and undertaking a citywide assessment of their vulnerabilities, to better adapt to the changing climate.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

In the meantime remember it only takes 12 inches of water to carry away most cars. When you encounter a flooded road, be patient, turn around don’t drown. It will save you money in car repairs, and it may save your life.

I find it fascinating that now we are starting to see the realities of what the climate scientists have been predicting. Increased heavy rainfall resulting in more flooding, prompting cities to make plans.  

The Path to Preparedness:


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