Record-setting floods in the US; flash floods around the world
March 27, 2009

As the eyes of many Americans are fixed on North Dakota, where record flooding has already reached Fargo and evacuation plans are being publicized, on the other side of the globe, a flash flood caused by a dam failure in Indonesia has killed dozens of people. The failed dam in Indonesia was an earthen dam from many decades ago. In wealthier countries, considerable resources have been spent and will continue to be expended on improving flood controls. Earthen dams can be weakened in ways that go undetected for long periods of time, as water saturates the ground beneath the dam and causes it to fail. Reinforcing tools like geotextiles and systems for diverting floodwaters (rather than holding them back) can contribute to greater safety. Dam failures remain a threat to life and property throughout the world, though improvements in technology and design have made them generally less common in the United States over the last few decades.

March 2009
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last revised March 2009