Aging infrastructure increases risk of major flooding in area

Oct 5, 2021

The remnants of Hurricane Ida brought up to eight inches of rain and caused major flooding damage in parts of Connecticut in early September, while moderate flooding was reported in parts of western Massachusetts. Those were small events compared to some of the truly devastating floods in the Connecticut River valley.

None are known to have done more damage than the Connecticut River valley flood of 1936. The flood was the result of nearly two feet of rain and led to numerous deaths and loss of jobs and property, according to the new book, "Connecticut River Valley Flood of 1936" by Joshua Shanley.

Tobacco fields devastated by the Connecticut River near Northampton, Massachusetts, in a 1936 flood.
Credit Paul Carter / U.S. Library of Congress

In the aftermath, dams, dikes and reservoirs were constructed to control future flooding. But since then, much of that system has gone largely unmaintained.

“It's largely uncertain if, where and when these systems are going to be stand up or fail,” Shanley told And Another Thing. “We’re at the precipice of some uncharted territory now, and that's concerning.”

We also hear from Ambarish Karmalkar, a UMass Amherst research professor in geoscience, and author of a new research paper to be published this month in Nature Climate Change. It states that coastal New England is warming at a faster rate than any other place in the country. 

Also, a Northampton woman tells us about her experience fleeing New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and why she and her family moved to another flood-prone neighborhood in the Oxbow area of the Connecticut River.

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