Flooding at Mill Creek

Cedar River at Iowa Highway One Sept. 27, 2016 at 11:36 a.m.

Mill Creek swelled its banks swamping nearby farm fields. It looks like the nearby city sewer system was spared inundation… for now.

Snow melt is everywhere in the county. Inches of packed snow yielded to ambient temperatures in the 50s and continuous rain. After a frigid, snowy winter the ice and snow pack is melting all at once. Snow was here Sunday and now is mostly gone.

Winter’s damage is being revealed. Our driveway buckled with the big swings in temperature. In one event, ambient temperatures swung more than 70 degrees in a day. Ice melted, then refroze under the cement, buckling the slabs leading to the road. Yesterday’s rain diverted inside the garage because of a buckle, requiring clean up to prevent further damage. Whether the buckled driveway will settle back down as it has before is unknown. It’s never been this bad.

The scale of the melt in a short period of time is what has Mill Creek flooding. Farmers removing buffer strips to grow a few more rows near the creek will take topsoil and farm chemicals downstream. It was foolish to sacrifice topsoil for a few more bushels of corn or beans. Farmers who did this likely didn’t see it that way even though flooding is not new to the area. Topsoil can’t be easily replaced but chemicals can.

Is this about climate change?

“A historic March blizzard is taking shape across Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota,” according to the National Weather Service. “Between one and two feet of snow is expected in some locations with wind gusts as high as 80 MPH.”

It is called a “bomb cyclone.” With hurricane strength, it has been forming over the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, creating blizzard conditions and stranding hundreds of motorists.

“During the first 10 days of March, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center recorded more than 500 avalanches statewide (a record number),” wrote Jonathan Romeo in the Durango Herald. “For the season, a total of eight people have been killed in avalanches.”

Issues abound. Icebergs and open water were found on Norton Sound near Nome, Alaska where the Ititarod Sled-Dog Race finished this week. It’s raining in Greenland when it shouldn’t be. Global oceans are at the highest heat content on record. The planet is warming, there is no doubt.

It won’t take long for water to recede into the banks of Mill Creek. When everything melts at once, immediate damage is exacerbated, the duration shortened.

My colleagues with The Climate Reality Project are meeting this week in Atlanta to train another group of leaders. As newcomers join thousands of others, let’s work to mitigate the effects of climate change on humans. March has been a month where the evidence of climate change has come to the forefront. March has run only half its course.

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