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Louisiana flooding: What is a 500-year flood and why is it happening so much?

Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 @ 8:23 AM
Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2016 @ 8:27 AM

As  of Wednesday morning, 11 people have died and more than 40,000 homes have been damaged in ongoing flooding  in southeastern Louisiana.

Up to two-and-a-half feet of rain that swelled rivers and swamped the area in and around Baton Rouge, La., has led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to classify the flooding as a once-in-every-500-years event.

Obviously, by definition, the events are rare – except this is the eighth time one of the 500-year events has happened in the United States in a little more than 12 months.

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Six states – Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland and Oklahoma --  have all had unprecedented rainfall events that, according to NOAA research, they should have only had a less than one percent chance of experiencing in any given year. 

So what is a 500-year flood and why are they happening more frequently? Here’s a quick look at what the historic rainfall means.

What is a 500-year flood?

The U.S. government, when creating the National Flood Insurance Program, used a measure called the 1-percent annual exceedance probability flood (AEP) to estimate the chance of repeat flooding of a certain level  in a certain area. The AEP defines a flood that, statistically, has a 1-in-100 chance of  being equaled or surpassed in any one year, thus the term “100-year flood” was born. The 500-year flood” is equal to an AEP of 0.2 percent, or a 1-in-500 chance an area will see a repeat of flooding at a certain level. 

In some areas of Louisiana, the flooding is being classified as a 1000-year-event – or an 0.1 percent chance of seeing flooding like that in any given year.

How are flood risks determined?

Scientists and engineers take annual measurements of the strength of the flow of a body of water and the peak height of the water as recorded by devices called streamgages. These devices are placed in spots along a river. They use those numbers, collected over time, to determine the probability (or chance) that a river will exceed those measurements during any given year.

Does a 500-year flood really mean that a flood of that type happens only once every 500 years?

No, not exactly. We are talking math. The term means  that, statistically, there is a 1-in-500 chance that an area will have a large flood in any given year. You could have a large flood two years in a row, but, chances are, you won’t. 

Why are we seeing eight such floods in the U.S. in a little over a year then? Does climate change have anything to do with it?

Climate scientists sure think it does. Many say they believe that global warming has everything to do with it and say we can look forward to more of these events. They have warned that warming temperatures on both land and sea, and the build-up of moisture in the atmosphere, will inevitably cause more large flooding events.

“We have been on an upward trend in terms of heavy rainfall events over the past two decades, which is likely related to the amount of water vapor going up in the atmosphere,” said Dr Kenneth Kunkel, of the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, told The Guardian.

“There’s a very tight loop – as surface temperatures of the oceans warm up, the immediate response is more water vapor in the atmosphere. We’re in a system inherently capable of producing more floods.”

David Easterling told The New York Times that the flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models. Not just in the U.S. but in many other parts of the world as well.” Easterling is a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is operated by the NOAA.

Sources: NOAA; The New York Times; The Guardian; The Associated Press; The National Weather Service

Pastor runs past firefighters to be with woman who fell down 50 foot cliff

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 11:01 PM

A woman in her 70s fell from a 50 foot cliff. (Photo: Fox23.com)
A woman in her 70s fell from a 50 foot cliff. (Photo: Fox23.com)

An older woman is recovering after falling about 50 feet off a cliff in rural Claremore, firefighters said.

A family friend said the woman, who is in her 70s, was dumping out some leaves when she slipped and fell behind her home.

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Multiple agencies spent about 90 minutes rescuing her while a medical helicopter waited nearby.

Firefighters said the woman was alert and talking when she was rescued. She was taken to a Tulsa hospital where she is recovering from bruises, a broken arm and a couple of broken ribs.

Pastor David Mewbourne of Claremore Assembly of God, the woman's pastor of 14 years, said he ran past firefighters and climbed down the cliff to keep her company while they worked on a way to rescue her safely.

Mewbourne said a tree was the only thing that kept her from going into the Verdigris River.


New father accused of selling heroin from maternity ward

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 10:24 PM

Cody Hulse. (Photo: WPXI.com)
Cody Hulse. (Photo: WPXI.com)

A new dad is accused of selling heroin from his family's room in the maternity ward.

Cody Hulse's child was born Thursday and police say a few hours later, Hulse was arrested on accusations he was selling heroin out of the maternity ward. 

Only Channel 11 was there as Hulse faced a judge Friday.

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On his way to jail, Channel 11 asked him what he had to say about the allegations.

"I have an addiction problem," Hulse said. "I do." 

Police say they stopped a car on North Main Street and could see heroin bags in plain sight.

They asked the person where they got the drugs, which led officers to Room 511 of the maternity ward of Excela Health Westmoreland. 

They found Hulse inside his girlfriend's room. 

They say he cooperated and told them he sold heroin to people who visited the room earlier that day.

Inside his pocket, police say they found 34 bags of heroin, needles, rubber bands and a spoon. 

Channel 11 contacted Excela Health about the arrest and whether there's anything the hospital can do to prevent something like this from happening again.

A spokesperson told Channel 11, "We appreciate the efforts of the city of Greensburg Police Department. Excela Health's security team works cooperatively with local and state law enforcement on an ongoing basis to help insure our health care is delivered in a safe environment for patients, visitors and employees."

The baby's mother denied knowing he had heroin in the room, but said she knew Hulse had issues with heroin in the past.

Embracing bodies found in national park died in ‘sympathetic murder-suicide’

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 10:03 PM

Embracing Bodies Identified As Missing Hikers

The bodies of a couple embracing each other discovered at Joshua Tree National Park likely died in a “sympathetic murder-suicide” while they were lost amid the desert’s boiling heat. 

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Rachel Nguyen, 20, and Joseph Orbeso, 22, had been missing for nearly three months after going for a hike in late July. 

Crews spent more than 2,100 hours scouring the rugged terrain before finding their bodies in a canyon Oct. 15.

This combo made from undated photos provided by the National Park Service show Rachel Nguyen, left, and Joseph Orbeso, as they seek the public's help in locating them. The father of Orbeso, a missing California man, says he believes the bodies of his son and his son's girlfriend, Nguyen, have been found in Joshua Tree National Park, Calif., near the area where the couple vanished while hiking nearly three months ago. Officials have not yet confirmed the identities of the bodies discovered Sunday in the desert park. (National Park Service via AP)(AP)

Autopsies found both had gunshot wounds and evidence at the scene led detectives to believe Orbeso shot Nguyen and then himself, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a statement Friday.

The bodies were under a tree, with clothing covering their legs to protect them from the sun. They appeared to have been rationing food and had no water.

"We hold no grudges against Joseph or the Orbeso family," Nguyen’s family members said in a statement. "We thank God that we'll be able to give Rachel a proper burial and lay her to rest."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hippo photo bombs engagement proposal

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 8:42 PM

File photo.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s beloved baby hippopotamus, helped celebrate the engagement of #TeamFiona fans.

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The couple were in line to snap a picture on their one-year anniversary earlier this month when Nick Kelble surprised Hayley Roll by getting down on one knee and proposing while Fiona photo-bombed the special moment at the zoo’s Hippo Cove.

Kelble, a University of Cincinnati student, and Roll, a recent Bowling Green State University grad and radiology tech at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, have loved Fiona from the start, our media partner WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported.

“We are huge #TeamFiona fans and have been following her since she was born,” Roll said, WCPO reported. “We’re so happy Fiona could be there on our special day. Here’s to many more years of going to zoos with you,” Roll posted on Instagram.

One zoo staff member cropped the photo and quipped that Fiona thinks she’s the one getting engaged. Another said Fiona would need a much bigger ring for one of her toes.