With Texas Building Boom Comes Higher Flood Risk

(TNS) – The workers watched as a construction crane lowered the concrete beams, 41,000 pounds each, and laid them one-by-one across the bridge bearings that span French Creek at Prue Road, for years a problematic low-water crossing on San Antonio’s booming Northwest Side.
By day’s end, all 45 beams would be in place, part of a $4.4 million Bexar County, Texas, flood control project to raise the bridge 14 feet, widen it by another 15, and dramatically increase the size of the channel below in order to convey more rushing water during storms.
Over the years, planners, engineers, water quality experts and others have come to recognize how urban development can drastically alter the landscape and exacerbate flooding.
The culprit, many experts believe, is impervious cover — the massive buildings, commercial strips and houses in addition to the asphalt and concrete that we walk and drive on every day. By stopping rain from absorbing into the ground, impervious cover increases the volume and speed of runoff from heavy downpours, pushing it in different directions.
Impervious cover is expanding every day, especially in San Antonio, one of the fastest-growing large cities in the U.S. The region’s population is expected to increase by 1.1 million over

Changes in Landscapes and Buildings Could Help Fight Flooding

( TNS) – A curbside garden filled with native plants that attract and feed bees and butterflies. Roofs covered with plants that slow the flow of water. Barrels and tanks that collect the rain pouring off rooftops.
Water quality experts believe that these types of landscape and design features, known as low-impact development, or LID, are both an important part of solving San Antonio’s problems with environmentally degraded waterways and flooding, particularly as the city continues to grow.
City planners expect about half a million new residential units here by 2040. With that comes more pavement and rooftops, surfaces known as impervious cover that prevent stormwater runoff from absorbing back into the ground and can make flooding more destructive and deadly.
Data from the U.S. Geological Survey show that the top annual floods along some San Antonio’s urban creeks and rivers have become more intense. All the city’s creeks and the San Antonio River carry levels of E. coli bacteria too high to allow safe swimming. San Antonio River Authority biologists say the cause is human and animal feces that wash off of impervious surfaces and into waterways when it rains.
These problems leave the city, Bexar County, SARA and others grappling with how

Rising Seas, Rising Stakes: R.I. Researchers Project Future Flooding

(TNS) – On his laptop computer, Grover Fugate, director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, opens up a 3D map of the potential flooding damage to buildings on Conimicut Point in Warwick if a storm like Hurricane Carol in 1954 were to strike again.
The buildings are color-coded in shades starting with green, depicting no impact from the 15-foot surge of water that storm winds would drive up Narragansett Bay, through yellow, orange and finally red, a near-total or total loss.
The most vulnerable houses on the narrow, triangular point that juts into the Bay are colored red, but the more sheltered shoreline neighborhoods to the north and south fare better, with swathes of yellow and only scattered dabs of orange.
Then, as Malcolm Spaulding, a professor emeritus of ocean engineering at the University of Rhode Island, looks on, Fugate clicks to the next slide in his presentation, showing a map of the same neighborhoods in the event of the same type of 100-year storm. But this one also takes into account seven feet of sea level rise, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts could occur by the end of this century.
In the new map, dozens of structures are

Hurricane Matthew put N.C., Regional Medical Center to Test

(TNS) – For more than a week before Hurricane Matthew’s Oct. 8 arrival in Robeson County, N.C.,staff at Southeastern Health were closely monitoring the storm’s uncertain path.
“The last prediction we had Friday was that we might see 5 to 6 inches of rain,” said Joann Anderson, president and CEO of Southeastern Health, which operates Lumberton’s Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
The hospital had been through storms before and has held emergency simulations. Officials knew they would likely lose power and would need to open a command center to oversee operations. As part of their emergency response plan, they keep 72 hours of food and equipment on hand as well as 48 to 96 hours of generator fuel.
“What we didn’t anticipate was the total impact of the hurricane itself,” Anderson said. “We didn’t anticipate 15 inches of rain. We didn’t anticipate a sustained period of flooding like we had to the magnitude that we had. We didn’t anticipate the number of trees that were going to be down and the fact that they would not only be down on power lines knocking out power, but also on roads and that the roads would be so significantly impacted by it.”
With all that is outlined

Four Colorado Counties Gain Access to Search and Rescue Drone

(TNS) — CREEDE, Colo. — Few places in the state are as mountainous and rugged as Mineral County.
The terrain in the county just west of the San Luis Valley is an alluring destination for hikers, hunters, snowmobilers and backcountry skiers.
But those mountains also can make for difficult search and rescue missions, especially if those mountains are covered in deep snow.
To help find the missing, the county’s emergency management office recently received a drone to get to those places where an all-terrain vehicle, snowmobile or even a man on foot can’t access.
“Our vision is we’re going to be utilizing it for areas we don’t want to put people in,” said Terry Wetherill, the county’s emergency manager and search and rescue coordinator.
Wetherill cited instances where avalanche conditions were prevalent or cliff sides that might require search teams to utilize ropes.
In addition to lessening the danger faced by rescuers, the drone also can cut down the time needed to track down the missing.
“Even in a mile or two radius, it takes a lot of time for people,” he said. “There’s going to be some big savings in safety and time.”
Wetherill just returned from Denver, where he purchased an infrared camera for the drone

Hurricane Matthew Clean-up Costs Could Lead to a County Property Tax Increase

(TNS) – Hurricane Matthew clean-up costs are expected to take a big bite out of Beaufort, S.C., County’s cash reserves and could ultimately lead to a property tax increase.
Preliminary figures estimate the recovery effort will cost the county roughly $17.5 million.
But that number is “very, very estimated” and expected to grow significantly, county chief financial officer Alicia Holland said earlier this week.
Debris removal makes up the majority of the clean-up costs at $10 million.
However, that figure only includes public roads. Once the cost of cleaning up roadways in private and gated communities — which the county has pledged to assist in — is tabulated, that $10 million estimate is likely to double, deputy county administrator Josh Gruber said.
County leaders estimate $3 million will be spent paying public employees for storm-related work and another $3 million will be needed to repair roughly 65 government structures and facilities damaged in the hurricane.
Miscellaneous costs such as additional mosquito control operations and contingency funds are estimated at $1.5 million.
The county has spent more than $100,000 on extra mosquito control chemicals alone, Holland said.
County leaders expect at least 75 percent of the clean-up cost to be eventually be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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