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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Waiting for the locusts

Just over 24 hours ago, Louisville received about 6 inches of rain in 75 minutes. It was the most intense rain anyone can remember and the effects were predictable. The main University of Louisville campus, for example, is closed today because of the flooding. The photos reveal the water's reach at my workplace. Fortunately, my office is on the second floor of my building, which was apparently undamaged. The basement was flooding yesterday morning, however, and we await word about the first floor offices.

Luckily, my family lives in a neighborhood known as "The Highlands," which was famously unaffected by the great Flood of 1937. The region is defined by a steep 60 foot incline above the flood plain. That historic disaster flooded 60% of Louisville as it rained for 53 consecutive hours (about 19 inches of rain accumulated) and the Ohio River was above flood stage for more than three weeks.

Regular readers may recall that September 14, 2008, Louisville was socked by hurricane-force winds as part of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Temperatures were mild, thankfully, during the 10 day period my home lacked electricity. It was a minor inconvenience to live out of a cooler, cook on a grill, and read by a lantern. It was like camping in one's own home.

On January 28, 2009, Louisville was hit by a deadly ice storm that left my family homeless for nearly a week as our electricity was out and temperatures were well below freezing. Roads were treacherous and ice-covered trees became deadly threats to humans.

My spouse and I have lived in Louisville for 18 years and have experienced three incredibly strange storms in the past 11 months. In the previous 18 years, we had a couple of heavy snowfalls (the most memorable featured 19 inches that shut down the state on MLK day 1994) and a heavy rain that dropped 9 inches of water over a 30 hour period.

These more recent storms have been unique and more than a little frightening. Yesterday, I know of at least two other people who made Biblical references suggesting that a plague of locusts might be next. The local newspaper agrees.

Any good scientist would say that it is impossible to blame a particular storm on global climate change. However, the consensus among scientists remains that global warming increases the intensity and frequency of major storms.

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