Flood Analysis in Cass County, North Dakota

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 18 September 2016

Flood Analysis in Cass County, North Dakota

From the outset, it is perhaps imperative to note that the Red River Basin has peculiar characteristics. The aforementioned factor combined with the topographical orientation of the region creates a rather perfect condition as far as flooding is concerned. Indeed there is a general consensus that these factors have contributed to the certainty of flooding within the Cass County; owing to the fact the said zone has been experiencing a total of four major floods from the year 1997.

Simply put, Cass County of North Dakota has had a rather unique interaction between the society and nature. Hence, this research analysis is founded on the premise of carrying out an assessment of flooding in terms of its overall impacts with particular reference to the economic development of the said county. Against this backdrop, this assessment shall seek to provide a holistic analysis of flooding within the Cass County. In particular, the assessment is founded on the tenet of generating an in-depth understanding of such natural disasters as well as their impacts.

In this regard, the literature of the assessment provides valuable insight to the entire process of such disasters in the context the cyclic phenomena of the respective disaster. In a nutshell, disasters such as flooding are brought about by a detailed interaction between the hazard and the region’s vulnerability; i. e. Cass County. Therefore, any disastrous event normally has the effect of revealing weaknesses within a given zone while at the same providing an opportunity to change in terms of preparedness.

The formulation and eventual adoption of policies or actions that greatly reduce the vulnerability is crucial since they are adaptive in nature. Consequently, the lack of such policies or inactivity no doubt increases vulnerability with far reaching socio-economic ramifications. Therefore, this assessment is focused on determining the actual extent of the four major floods in relation to their impact on Cass County. Impact of Flooding on Cass County As it has been discussed above, Cass County has been affected by four major floods since the year 1997.

During this year the floods were realized to be 901. 53 feet above the sea level; with the flood stage being recorded as 39. 57. Four years later, this county witnessed another flood; named flood two and was noted to be 898. 49 feet above sea level while its flood stage was 36. 69. As it was anticipated, another major flood occurred in the year 2006 with a slight variation in height to the previous one. Hence, the 2006 flood was named number three with an approximated height of 898. 98 feet above sea level with a total flood stage of 37.

18. This was then followed by another flood in 2007 with a total height of 892. 60 feet above sea level with a flood stage of 30. 80. Of importance to note is the fact that irrespective of the year or flood stage, Cass County has experienced devastating floods in the past ten years with almost similar impacts every time each occurred. From the above data, it is evident that throughout the past ten-year period, floods have caused extensive damage on a range of sectors within the Cass County region.

One of such sectors that have been affected throughout this period is infrastructure. The 1997 flood for instance resulted into enormous disruption of the built infrastructure and water supply systems. According to Few and Franziska,(2006), this flood led to total disruption of the clean water supply systems as well destruction of sewer system. Transport and communication set up was not spared either. In particular, this flood was characterized by neck-high water levels resulting to extensive damage to the overall infrastructure within North Dakota region.

The most affected was the railroad system in terms of total destruction of the rail beds and thus leading to disruptions of the transport services. Yet still, things were no better with the subsequent floods within the region albeit to a relatively smaller scale. This is attributed to the fact that the county had somewhat put in place contingency measures having learnt from the 1997 major flood synonymous to the 1897 flood. The second area that has been affected with these floods is the business. Statistics indicate that the 1997 floods led to the evacuation of about 80% of the total population.

Indeed this was occasioned by the fact that 80% of the region had been induated. Coupled with the destruction of basic infrastructure, the business community lost considerable income due to loss of market as well as destruction of their premises. Records indicate that flooding within this region often resulted to the destruction of up to 20 percent of the downtown business buildings with the rest being completely burned due to the neck-high water levels. Coupled with the closure of public institutions, schools and churches, the basic economic livelihood support system was indeed grounded.

There exists a correlation between livelihood support framework and socio-economic status of a community. A negative impact on businesses and public service sector most certainly impacts on the socio-economic status of a people negatively. The fact that such a community is exposed to the same disaster within a period of ten years makes things even worse. Hence, these floods having resulted to loss of income or life support systems, led to significant loss in the prestige by the people. After the floods have receded, the Cass County has often undergone a period of a sudden loss of the community.

Throughout the County, people mourn the loss of home, old neighborhood as well as other pleasant elements of their life during the pre-flood period. The leaders on the other hand have not been spared either, since these floods exposed their utter lack of competence in terms of coming up with proactive measures aimed at increasing resilience of the county to floods. At such times of unexpected disasters, the masses usually expect their political leaders to come up with simple but decisive answers; which will in turn encourage or give them hope to overcome their losses.

However, these floods though unexpected, have often pitted the leaders against the people due to failure to come up with holistic contingency measures. Nonetheless, the federal government has more often than not, come up with support systems for the county. This has come in the form of provision of 100 percent free emergency covers as well as debris removal in addition to basic amenities. The third area that has especially been affected by these floods is agriculture. The 1997 floods for example, resulted to destruction of over 2 million acres of wheat land.

Subsequent floods have also been noted to affect the entire Red River Valley and thereby destroying agricultural land. As it is with the case with loss of businesses income, agriculture related losses have a direct impact on the economic base of a community as well as the overall socio-economic system. The North Dakota region is especially known for production of wheat for other parts of the country. To the people in Cass County, wheat farming is an industry in its own way contributing to their economic growth. As such, loss of prime agricultural land has had the effect of increasing vulnerability of the community.

Increase in social disorder is the other impact of floods to the Cass County. As is has been discussed above, floods have often resulted to destruction of housing and thus leading to evacuation of persons. With an apparent system failure in the region occasioned by lose of employment or stable income, Cass County often witnesses a period of increased domestic violence cases. There is evidence from literature that six to one year after every flood, Cass County experiences a somewhat increase in demand for service from the Violence Intervention Centre.

The most commonly sought after services by the people have been protection orders, counseling and shelter. With housing being a problem and compounded by sudden loss of the basic livelihood support systems, people are bound to experience a social disorder and hence increase in the demand for such service. Consequently, there is a snowballing effect from floods to social fragmentation. Issues such as complete absence of day care services for persons returning to paid and full time jobs are common during the post flood period.

Indeed a failure in social order; occasioned by these floods have a profound negative impact on the family structure within Cass County. The situation is not made any easier to single headed families or families with a large number of dependants; an aspect that greatly contributes socio-economic stress to the family heads. Eventual loss of occupation and thus income does not make matters any easier to such families and hence leading to a reduction in their overall resilience. Education is the other area that has continued to be affected during the past ten-year period.

In essence, impact on education has been two fold. The first impact is normally captured in terms of evacuation of almost all the people from Cass County and hence migration of students across all learning institutions. Closure of such leaning centers is the other impact of flooding. Even after the receding of floods, some learning centers were extensively damaged and thus requiring extra resources for re-building the same. Evidently, learners within Cass County have had to endure lost hours in the curriculum with some opting to study in relatively stable areas.

Such disruptions not only limit the scope of education but also affect lifetime earnings of the people. Limited education drastically reduces the peoples’ ability to compete favorably against others and thus exposing them to socio-economic disadvantage. Perhaps this explains why majority of people in Cass County have ventured into agriculture supplemented by businesses. The few with relatively good education have opted to move to other areas. Data from the North Dakota indeed supports this premise vividly showing a reduction in the number of school going students during the ten-year period.

This is further supplemented by data showing that Cass County has a large non-skilled workforce according to an employment statistics with comparatively lower wages in remuneration. The fact that floods have affected virtually every sectors no less results to enormous economic impacts to the County. Though it might not be possible to capture the true economic impact of such floods in monetary estimations, approximations from various literatures indicate that the ten-year flood period has in no doubt resulted to severe economic losses.

For instance, in the 1997, Cass County with a population of about 50,000 sustained an economic loss of over $ 1 billion with specific reference to damage. As a part of the recovery effort, the County incurred another $300 million for dike construction. Subsequent floods have resulted in slight variations of the $ 1 billion figure with other areas being affected greatly. During such floods, the cost of medical care tends to skyrocket beyond the reach of many due to the loss of basic incomes and as such the burden is left to the already over stretched county government to cater for the same.

Drawing from the devastating 1997 floods, the county government has had to endure regular costs towards building dikes up to date. Based on the data from the North Dakota State data Centre, with a population of about 642, 200 by 2000, the cost of re-construction has doubled in terms of health care, housing, schools as well as restoration of infrastructure. In particular, Cass County has had its population increase by 19. 7 percent between 2000 and 2009; with the population growing from 123, 138 to 143,339 respectively. With such population, any impact of floods to either of the sector is bound to cause a huge economic burden to the County.

In terms of community economics, the ten-year period has witnessed rapid decline in their livelihood levels. Individuals have had to re-build their homes, as well as re-establish their income sources while the County is tasked with the duty of providing the fundamental amenities such as schools, clean water, sewer system, transportation and communication among others. After the 2001 floods, Cass County experienced $ 2. 35 million expenditure occasioned by damage to bridges, roads, water drainage and streets. This was followed by $ 2. 5 million damage to the County road network system from the 2006 floods.

The other part of economic impact of these floods comes from the overall environmental effect of these floods. Pollution from all sorts of contaminants is an example of such impact; which is results to a rapid increase in both short-term and long-term healthcare complications to the people. Agriculture and wetland are not spared either leading to a sudden cut-off of the life support systems of the people. The cost of restoring these systems is quite enormous considering the fact that this County has witnessed a total of four major floods in a span of ten years. Wheat farming on the other hand is estimated to generate a total of $4.

5 billion in revenue annually. Further, it is estimated that the county spends $ 1 billion every year to curb plant diseases occasioned by soil pollution occasioned by floods. In addition, the livestock industry in the county has also experienced as a result of loss of feeds and diseases due to stagnant water within the entire valley. It is estimated that the County lost more than $32 million annually from this sector during the ten-year flood period. However of importance to note is the fact that despite these enormous economic impacts, vulnerability has continued to decrease.

This is largely attributed to the consistent support top the people by both the federal and county governments. The introduction of flood insurance as a safety net has in no doubt decreased the peoples’ vulnerability to these floods. Technology has also been used to the advantage of the residents in terms of weather forecasting complemented with continuous construction of dikes. The presence of several institutions of learning in the area contributes to empowerment of the people through acquisition of relevant livelihood support skills.

This way, the overall socio-economic status of the people is developed thereby decreasing vulnerability. Conclusion That Cass County is greatly predisposed to floods is a fact due to the topographical orientation of the region. Nonetheless, it is worth noting these floods have been decreasing in height since the devastating floods of 1997. With increased awareness on the need to put in place proactive disaster preparedness strategies, this County has shown to contain floods. In particular, the county government opted to allocate a share of its revenue towards mitigation of flood related impacts.

Vulnerability of the County on the other hand seems to be decreasing due to relative socio-economic stability. However, it is not lost that climate change presents another challenge that increases the probability of such disasters. With continuous dedication of resources as well as putting in place of contingency measures, Cass County is able to deal with floods to their bare minimal economic impacts on the people. This is demonstrated by the peoples’ ability to recover from their losses during the ten-year period irrespective of the challenges.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 18 September 2016

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