Quebec’s Updated Flood Maps Prove Controversial

Government of Quebec (screenshot)

In the wake of serious and devastating spring flooding in 2017 and 2019, the Quebec government issued proposed flood zone maps that marked areas where rebuilding and new construction would be put on hold. There was immediate pushback: as CBC News reported last month, the maps included substantial areas of small towns (such as, in my neck of the woods, the villages of Fort-Coulonge and Campbell’s Bay), or, in the case of Gatineau, areas that were not flooded in either 2017 or 2019 as well as major new developments. The mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion suggested that the mapmakers forgot to correct for cloud cover. In the end, new maps were issued that removed substantial areas of Montreal from the flood zone, among other areas: some 20 percent of the 120,000 homes affected by the first set of maps were removed from the revised maps.

Previously: Quebec Flood Maps.

Quebec Flood Maps

In my neck of the woods we’ve been dealing with some pretty severe spring flooding. And as is often the case, existing flood maps are not up to handling the new normal imposed by climate change. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a community near Montreal, was hit hard by flooding this spring, but only two of the 800 flooded homes were in current maps’ flood zones. This isn’t an new situation; we had similar floods in 2017. Back then, CBC News reported that Montreal-area flood maps’ 20- and 100-year floodplains were exceeded by the then-current flood extent.

Fast forward to this spring. The flood maps for Montreal-area municipalities have been updated—they’re now based on LIDAR data from 2014 onward—but have not yet made public: they’ve yet to be approved by the municipalities or adopted by the province; nonetheless they’ve been put to use during the recent emergency. On the new maps, some 1,500 homes in Sainte-Marthe are part of the flood zone.

Mapping Disasters in America

The Washington Post maps disasters in the United States, with a page that shows maps of flood warnings, tornadoes and hurricanes, extreme heat and cold (see above), wildfires, lightning, and earthquakes and volcanoes. In the wake of a natural disaster there’s usually someone suggesting that the victims are at fault for living in a disaster zone. The WaPost’s maps have an answer to that: “It turns out there is nowhere in the United States that is particularly insulated from everything.”

Mapping Natural Disasters in France

In response to the latest round of flash floods in France, The Local has a piece looking at natural disasters in France that points to a set of interactive maps from France Info (in French; page doesn’t work well in Safari) that show the number of natural disasters, by commune, since 1982, as well as the number of disasters due to flooding and drought. The maps indicate where the disaster hot spots are in France and (to some extent) where they aren’t: only 3.5 percent of French communes have never had a disaster declaration in that period. Sixty percent of the disasters were due to flooding; The Local also points to the Global Flood Map: zooming in sufficiently shows the zones for high and moderate risk of flooding. [Gretchen Peterson]

Looking Back at Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

Here’s a CBS News gallery of before-and-after images showing the impact of flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The page is undated but was published on 1 September. [Dave Smith]

And, via CityLab, here are a set of maps from the Urban Institute that show the impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston’s neighbourhoods, based on income levels, home ownership rates, accumulated-equity rates, all of which looking at the economic impact of the storm. “Harvey’s aftermath puts an enormous hurdle in front of all homeowners and renters but will be a particular setback for low-income, minority families recovering from the 2008 housing bust.”

Previously: Mapping Hurricane Harvey’s Impact.

Mapping Hurricane Harvey’s Impact

Washington Post

The Washington Post maps rainfall and flooding levels in the Houston area.

The New York Times is collecting several maps on two web pages. The first page deals with subjects like rainfall, river level, current and historical hurricane tracks, damage reports, and cities and counties under evacuation orders. Maps on the second page look at Harvey’s impact on the Houston area.

Esri’s U.S. Flooding Public Information Map includes precipitation and flood warnings.

Kenneth Field critiques the National Weather Service’s decision to add more colours to their precipitation maps (see above). “Simply adding colours to the end of an already poor colour scheme and then making the class representing the largest magnitude the very lightest colour is weak symbology. But then, they’ve already used all the colours of the rainbow so they’re out of options!”

FEMA Flood Maps Don’t Account for Future Sea Level Rise

NPR last month, reporting on a problem with FEMA’s flood insurance maps: they’re not keeping up with reality. “FEMA’s insurance maps are based on past patterns of flooding. Future sea level rise—which is expected to create new, bigger flood zones—is not factored in. So some communities are doing the mapping themselves. Like Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland.” [Leventhal]

Louisiana Flooding: NASA Animation of Accumulated Rainfall

louisiana-floods

NASA Earth Observatory: “Days of intense rainfall in August 2016 led to widespread flooding in southern Louisiana, as rivers swelled high above their banks and many crested at record-high levels. […] The animation above shows satellite-based measurements of the rainfall as it accumulated over the southern United States. Specifically, it shows rainfall totals every three hours over the span of 72 hours from August 12-14, 2016. These rainfall totals are regional, remotely sensed estimates, and local amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.”

New Year’s Flooding in the Midwest

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These two Landsat images illustrate the extent of flooding along the Wabash and Illinois Rivers at the end of last year, as 6-10 inches of rain fell over the midwestern United States. The image from 8 December 2015, above left, shows normal water levels; the image from 1 January  2016, above right, shows the rivers in flood. Use the slider to compare the two views. Original image. [via]

Alberta Flood Maps

This is a list of maps related to the flooding in southern Alberta (Calgary, Canmore, Bragg Creek, High River, Okotoks, etc.). This list will be added to as needed. Feel free to contribute additional links in the comments.

Update, 10:15 PM:

Update, June 22 at 8:25 AM: