Flooding has been a natural phenomena since all of time, unfortunately it never will stop occurring whether we like it or not. Fargo, North Dakota is home to disastrous flooding every spring when the spring thaw arrives in late April and early May. There have been many historical flood events in cities, towns and townships all throughout the vast Red River Valley. In 1997, a project formed into what is now the International Flood Mitigation Initiative (FMI which is part of the International Water Institute here in the Red River Valley. For those of you that don't already know, the Red River of the north is an international river basin flowing through the United States and into Canada. The river has a very unique geography and hydrology with frequent very severe flooding as well as very frequent and severe droughts. The region has numerous accounts of resource management issues. Engineers and other officials can try to manipulate the river and its flow for our well being and be successful but it is important to understand flooding in the Red River Basin is an unavoidable consequence as it is a perfectly natural healthy function of a river to periodically occupy its flood plain. The problem with the Red Rivers flood plain is that it can be very massive and vast at many points along its trajectory. At many sites along the river valley, the flood plain extends over 40 miles in either direction outward from the river with only 6 inches of elevation change for every mile traveled outward. If you put two and two together and see this in context, you begin to understand the devastation involved in a river that on a regular basis crests over 20 feet above flood stage.
Every flood each year is entirely different from the previous years as floods in the Red River basin are extremely complicated. Many factors together contribute to the major flooding events. The most significant factor involved is the timing. Were talking about water flow timing, weather pattern timing, ice flow timing, etc... There are many factors that positively influence flooding situations and many that negatively influence these situations.
Many people are destined to find a solution that unfortunately may never arrive. "The residents of the Red River Basin must be ready to cope with the next flood. They must be prepared to deal with the challenges of fighting the flood and flood recovery" (IJC Task Force, 2000). The best thing people can do for themselves is practice and think up ways to incorporate resiliency- the ability to recover or adapt quickly following the consequences of flooding. There is no silver bullet to ending these terrible floods.
However, we as a society have found ways to incorporate reduction measures to prevent mass catastrophe during flooding events. Engineers have developed flood walls, levees/dikes, diversions, dams, and impoundments. We need to be thankful for the knowledge and technology our engineers make possible but we also need to remember that technology is never perfect and it can and will fail at times. Not only have we developed ways of preventing major problems, we have developed changes in the way we construct infra structure. We've incorporated a new style of building which is based on flood resistant construction. These changes are taking place in the way we build sewer/storm water infrastructure, roads and bridges, and homes/businesses.
There are other "soft" FDR measures kept in place as well. National Flood Insurance Programs, agency/ training programs, public education/awareness through media and public awareness, alert systems like Code Red which promotes volunteerism where it is needed, and landuse treatments such as run off attenuation.
There is a huge amount of new technology that has emerged and that is on the break of the horizon for emerging that can and will help us predict exact measures as far as how much water will be flowing, when, and for how long. Also with advanced mapping technology we can see exactly where the water will be headed when it leaves the river's banks which is huge in order to prepare for whats coming. One of the most amazing tools that is available to the public but used by top officials as well is the National Weather Service (NWS) Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service (AHPS).
Flooding is a sad reality for many of us that live in the Red River Valley, and unfortunately it truly has no end in sight. Our engineers will keep applying the latest technology and we must trust in them and what they do to keep us safe.