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.

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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

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Trump Putin summit: Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, John McCain react

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 2:00 PM

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a join press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a join press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)

Response to President Donald Trump’s comment at the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin that he doubted Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was swift and pointed Monday.

Reaction ranged from CNN anchor Anderson Cooper calling the president’s performance “disgraceful” to retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (California) defending the president’s comments.

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Trump and Putin “spent a great deal of time” discussing allegations of Russian election meddling as they met for several hours Monday, the U.S. president said. 

Trump resisted when asked Monday to condemn Russian meddling in the election, instead complaining about a Democratic National Committee computer server and Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. 

“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. 

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that was responsible for the election hacking. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Here are some of the comments made just after the summit ended.

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CVS apologizes after white manager called police on black woman using coupon

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 6:10 AM

CVS Issues Apology After Chicago Woman Is Accused Of Forging Coupon

CVS has apologized to a black woman and is investigating an incident in which a white manager called police on her after she tried to use a coupon at a Chicago store on Friday.

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Camilla Hudson, 53, who said her Facebook post detailing the incident was removed for unspecified reasons by the social media site, also shared video on Twitter of her interaction with the CVS manager who claimed she had forged a coupon.

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Hudson said she shared her experience after other recent stories where police were called by white people because of minor or perceived infractions by black people.

“I was not yelling, I did not raise my voice, I did not use profanity, I did not call anyone outside of their name -- other than not accepting, basically, ‘Screw you,’ that was my offense, if you will,” Hudson told Block Club Chicago. “As a woman, as a black woman, as a native Chicagoan, I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of it.”

Police were called to the store for an assault in progress, according to Block Club Chicago. Hudson was told by police she had to leave or else it would be considered trespassing.

“They were not awful,” Hudson told Block Club Chicago regarding the interaction with police. “I explained to them what had happened and how it had happened, and they said, ‘When we get these calls we do have to respond … (but) you’re going to have to leave,’ and I said, ‘Why do I have to leave? I’m a customer here.’”

CVS reached out to Hudson Saturday as her post went viral.

“Our Region Director in Chicago contacted Ms. Hudson as soon as we were made aware of this incident,” CVS said in a statement, according to Block Club Chicago. “CVS has begun an investigation and we will take any corrective action that is warranted to prevent it from happening again. CVS Pharmacy does not tolerate any practices that discriminate against any customer and we are committed to maintaining a welcoming and diverse environment in our stores.”

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Texas woman sentenced to 40 years for trying to sell 2-year-old for sex

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 3:00 PM

Sarah Marie Peters
Montgomery County Sheriff's Office
Sarah Marie Peters(Montgomery County Sheriff's Office)

A Texas woman was sentenced last week to 40 years in prison for trying to sell her 2-year-old daughter for sex. 

Sarah Marie Peters, 25, of Houston, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted human trafficking, promotion of prostitution of a child and sexual performance of a child, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. She received a 40-year sentence on the sexual performance charge and 20-year sentences on each of the two other charges. 

All three charges are to run concurrently, a news release from the district attorney’s office said. Peters will not be eligible for parole until 2038. 

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The Houston Chronicle reported that court documents said the investigation, completed by the Montgomery County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, began when a detective on the task force received information about a woman who was “into incest.” The detective made contact with the woman, later identified as Peters, through a social media website. 

Investigators said that Peters sent the undercover investigator inappropriate photos of naked young girls and, according to court documents, sent a message to the detective asking, “Know of any guys that would pay to have fun with (her daughter)?”

“The detective advised they would pay $1,200 for Peters to travel to Conroe with the child for an alleged sexual encounter,” Peters’ arrest report said, according to the Chronicle

Peters agreed.

Task force members followed her Feb. 22 to the Greyhound bus station in Houston, where they watched her get onto a bus with her daughter, the newspaper reported. They tailed the bus to Conroe, where Peters and her daughter got off the bus. 

Peters was arrested, and her daughter was placed in the custody of Child Protective Services. 

“The events of this case are hard to believe -- that a mom would willingly expose her own daughter to this type of danger,” Tyler Dunman, chief of the district attorney’s Special Crimes Bureau, said in a statement

Without the proactive work of the task force investigators, the child “would have become a victim (of) the worst type of abuse,” Dunman said

He urged members of the community to be vigilant and report to police any activity they see or hear about that could put a child in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation.

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Woman vows to sue nephew over $1.2 million lottery prize

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 2:59 PM

A woman is suing her nephew after putting his name on a lottery ticket for good luck. (Photo: Margaree Chase the Ace/Facebook)
A woman is suing her nephew after putting his name on a lottery ticket for good luck. (Photo: Margaree Chase the Ace/Facebook)

A lottery jackpot check presentation turned into a family feud when the woman who put her nephew’s name on the winning ticket refused to split the prize and vowed to sue for the remaining portion. 

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Barbara Reddick gave her nephew Tyrone MacInnes $100 to buy tickets for Chase the Ace, a lottery with a jackpot that had reached $1.2 million, and told him to put his name on the ticket as well, for good luck, the CBC reported she said.

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“He’s always lucky with his draws, right?” Reddick, of Guysborough, Nova Scotia, told The Province. “I said ‘Well, put your name on the ticket and you’ll be my good luck charm.’ I didn’t say split. I never mentioned money at all.”

When their card was picked, it was Tyrone, who lives in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, whose contact information was on the ticket, who was called, according to the CBC. They found out they won and Tyrone wanted half, she told The Province

“I would have given him $150,000,” she said. “Listen, Tyrone was the son that I never had. Me and Tyrone -- ask anybody -- we’re very very close … . Tyrone is getting nothing from me. It’s just for the principle. We were so close. He broke my heart. He broke it. … People go crazy when it comes to money.”

At a check-presentation ceremony Thursday, Reddick was visibly distraught and as the cameras clicked, she quickly told her nephew that she would see him in court. 

"I'm taking him to court. I'm getting a lawyer tomorrow,” she told the CBC.

Lottery officials were dismayed with the way the presentation devolved.

"I can't really explain it. I didn't expect anything like that to happen. I just came to deliver the checks and present them to the winners,” Bernice Curley, chair of the Chase the Ace lottery, told the CBC. “I'm a little bit disappointed that happened at the end."

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