Although you may not think of cities as places for floods, unfortunately, urban floods are on the rise. Over the last three decades, there has been a steady increase in urban flooding across the country. While changing weather patterns and severe storms play a part, urban sprawl and outdated municipal sewer systems don’t help the situation. No stranger to flooding, Houston has seen extensive flooding over the last decade. However, cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. have also seen an increase in severe floods. From urban floods to street flooding, we look at why cities are flooding more frequently. Plus, we explore why floods in urban areas are particularly dangerous and how to prepare for them.
What is Urban Flooding?
Simply put, urban flooding is flooding in cities and towns. Obviously, flooding is the result of some type of water. This can be anything from a slow-moving rainshower to extremely powerful hurricanes.
Although you probably don’t think of winter as a time for flooding, snowmelt is becoming a serious issue in cities. Melting snow is a major cause of urban flooding in Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, New York, and Portland.
What Causes Urban Flooding?
Aside from the actual source of water, there are several key factors that cause urban flooding. One of the major causes is the outdated municipal sewer systems. Most of our sewers were put in shortly after World War II and our population has doubled since then. In many cities, sewers are taxed even without having to deal with floods.
Another major cause of urban flooding is the lack of drainage. In addition to our population growth, we’ve expanded significantly as a society. This means significantly more buildings, cars, streets, and parking lots today. As a result, there is less soil to naturally absorb rainwater and snowmelt. This often leads to street flooding.
What Causes Street Flooding?
The increase in parking lots and roads has led to a new term, street flooding. Similar to flash floods, street floods occur when water fills road surfaces. When floods occur in cities, streets serve as a perfect surface for the water to flow. Curbs, buildings, and even parked cars help to channel water along the street surface.
Where Do Floods Occur Most?
A common misconception about flooding is that it usually happens near along coastal areas or near rivers. However, floods can occur anywhere if there is more water than the area can handle. Urban flooding is on the rise, with Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, and Phoenix having all seen record flooding in the last decade.
The Most Common Cities For Urban Flooding
There are two key things that connect most of the cities on these lists. First, they are known for their large urban sprawl, which increases the chances of street flooding. Second, is municipal sewage systems that are easily 50 or more years old. Together, they are a recipe for urban flooding.
Why Are Floods In Urban Areas Particularly Dangerous?
The main reason that urban floods are dangerous is that they are often unexpected. Street floods can develop quickly and just 6 inches of water is enough to move a car. Another concern is the increased risk of sewage backups. This can spread viruses, bacteria, and other illnesses. Even if they don’t back up into your home, they can easily infect you, your pets, or your children.
How Can Urban Areas Control Flooding?
The best way to deal with urban flooding is to maintain your home and yard. Check your basement or crawl space for signs of water regularly and make repairs immediately. Clean your gutters and downspouts twice a year, more if you have trees in your area. Also, make sure that the ground slopes away from your foundation. Keep trees at least 3 feet away and bushes at least 2 feet away from your home.
How to Get Help With Flooding?
Our network of restoration contractors offers flood cleanup services. If you have urban flooding, we’ll connect you with a local contractor to extract the water and repair the damage. Choose a water damage restoration company near you now. Our listings include both independent companies as well as major brands like Belfor Restoration and Steamatic. For immediate service, call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate and emergency water extraction from our on-call contractor nearest you.